Girl finds mysterious Chinese wishing box. Girl makes shallow wishes. People around her die. That’s all you really need to know about “Wish Upon,” a lame scarer aimed at the preteen Disney set. The recycled plot isn’t the worst thing in the horror world, but the movie’s timid attempt at horror comes close. Can you really call a movie like this “disappointing” when you expect nothing from it in the first place?
The perpetually irritating Joey King is Clare, an unpopular high schooler dealing with being bullied by mean girls and being constantly embarrassed by her dumpster diving dad (Ryan Phillippe). People close to Clare (but not too close) begin dying in supposedly horrific ways after she makes lame wishes with her magic demon box. It takes her quite a while to catch on to what’s happening, but even the carnage doesn’t stop her from making more demands of the box.
One thing the film gets right is the type of wishes a teenage girl would make, even after realizing they all have a “blood price.” World peace? A cure for cancer? Eradicating hunger across the globe? Nah, she instead chooses to be rich, popular, and idolized by the dreamboat in third period.
Looking for suspense and real terror? You aren’t going to find it here. There’s nothing horrifying about this story and the blood and gore is as tame as they come. I suppose this would be a good “starter” PG-13 horror film for an eleven year old. There aren’t even that many cheap jump scares and the only thing that builds suspense are the hints about the method in which people close to Clare will die (although this sort of tease was done much better in “Hot Tub Time Machine” with the armless bellhop). My emotional detachment from the characters grew so rapidly that I didn’t care who lived or died.
This film isn’t fun at all and would be better suited as a direct to video release. The camp (including a ridiculous scene of Phillippe playing a saxophone) isn’t intentional or entertaining, and the movie never gets so lousy that it becomes funny — it just remains lousy.
You want a horror movie like “The Box” but that’s made specifically to appeal to teens? Be careful what you wish for, because you just might end up with a toothless, PG-13 retread of a story that’s already been done countless times. And that’s precisely what we got with “Wish Upon.”
The most frustrating thing about “Wish Upon” is the protagonist, Clare Shannon (Joey King) takes a maddeningly long time to figure out that her wishes have a terrible price. Wish after wish, she starts to realize that things aren’t working out precisely as she had hoped, and at the same time she starts losing friends and family members. But somehow she never puts two and two together and continues making the same mistake over and over again. And, while we as the audience continue to become more and more frustrated with Clare’s stupidity, we are still expected to sympathize with her — a difficult task.
So we have an unsympathetic protagonist hell-bent on repeating her past mistakes; do the horror elements of the story redeem the film? Sadly, not really. The only interesting death is spoiled by the trailer, and the PG-13ness of it really neuters its effectiveness.
For teenagers looking to get out of the house for the summer, “Wish Upon” might be just entertaining enough to justify going to the theater. Everyone else should skip it.