Wish Upon: Beat The Heat With Thrills

by Sandra Olmsted

Teenaged Clare (Joey King) struggles with a mysterious wish-granting box in the horror film Wish Upon.

Teenaged Clare (Joey King) struggles with a mysterious wish-granting box in the horror film Wish Upon.

In Wish Upon, teenaged Clare (Joey King) struggles with being a high schooler who isn’t the richest, most popular, or best dressed. Despite a devastating childhood event and the embarrassment of the her father being the local garbage picker and scrap merchant, she’s a good kid who’s going to bloom later. Clare also has two best friends, Meredith (Sydney Park) and June (Shannon Purser), a boy who secretly likes her, Ryan (Ki Hong Lee) and a beloved dog, Max. She also has her father, Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe), a surrogate mom, Mrs. Deluca, (Sherilyn Fenn), and her deceased mom’s wealthy Uncle August (Victor Sutton). She should be thankful, but she still longs not to be bullied by the very popular Darcie (Josephine Langford), and for the attention of Paul (Mitchell Slaggert) who dates Darcie’s best friend, Lola (Daniela Barbosa).

   When her dad finds a beautiful but mysterious box with Chinese written on it, he gives it to Clare for her birthday, partly because she’s studying Chinese in school. While Clare can’t translate much of what is on the box, she does discover that the box grants seven wishes. So, she thinks, “Why not?” and wishes that Darcie, the most popular girl and meanest bully in the school, would “go rot.” What Clare can’t translate is that each wish granted requires a “blood price.” Soon after Darcie gets a skin eating disease, but Clare forgets her guilty feeling when Max mysteriously dies. As Clare continues to wish, others she loves suffer and die, but at least Clare’s life is better because she’s rich, popular, and dating Paul. When Clare begins to suspect the box is evil, Ryan, whose cousin is a scholar of Chinese languages and antiquates, offers to help with box.
   Director John R. Leonetti, who has a long history with thrillers and horror, often as cinematographer, delivers exactly what the genre demands in Wish Upon. As typical teen-in-peril horror film, his film is a predictable, but where he surprises in his exquisite suspense and surprising twists whenever a characters demise is imminent. Under Leonetti’s direction Joey King, who is already making a fourth horror film, and the rest of the cast deliver just the right emotions to help the viewer empathize with Clare’s moral quandary over the benefits and costs as the box begins to control her. Wish Upon has many similarities to W. W. Jacobs’ short story “The Monkey’s Paw,” which has become the basis for many stories. A Broad Green Pictures release, Wish Upon runs a well-paced 90 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic elements and language. Wish Upon, which opens June 14, sneaks into some theaters the day before to provide chills to beat the heat.

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