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Review: Wish Upon – “A fun throwback teen horror thriller”

Wish Upon is directed by John R. Leonetti (Annabelle) and written by Barbara Marshall (Viral). The film stars Joey King (The Conjuring), Ryan Phillippe (I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Way of the Gun), Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner), Shannon Purser (Stranger Things), and Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks).

Claire (King) is a high school teen who is a good student, but regularly embarrassed and subsequently picked on, because of her dumpster-diving dad, Jon (Phillippe). When Jon and his buddy are rooting through the rubbish outside a creepy old mansion one day they discover a strange old box and give it to Claire as a gift.

That night while holding the box Claire mutters something about wishing her main bully at school would “go rot”, and goes to sleep thinking nothing more of it. The next day at school she is ecstatic to hear that her nemesis has contracted a necrotic flesh-eating disease and half her face and foot have rotted off.

It turns out the box is a Chinese wish pot which grants Claire a very generous seven wishes. HOWEVER, the pot is also home to a “revenge demon” and you have to pay “the blood price” for your wishes – which means someone close to you gets bumped off in a gruesome and entertainingly convoluted manner in return for a desire being granted.

Once the penny drops, Claire is still surprisingly guilt-free and continues to make requests even though people are dying, and her friends – Ryan (Lee) and June (Purser) – are pleading with her to pack it in. The teens are mostly a believable bunch, with a greedy Claire as self-centred as a fifteen-year-old may indeed be when given such power. Purser is her usual wonderful self, giving what could have been a relatively plain nice and normal best friend character some gravitas. Lee does a lot too, playing a potential love interest who provides the key to understanding the wish pot.

The adults are good too, with Phillippe playing a dad making anyone who went to the cinema to see his teen horror films feel old – but still managing to be sexy even when busting out some cheesy saxophone solos. Fenn’s presence is brief but unforgettable, and there is also a wonderfully strange Jerry O’Connell-out-of-nowhere flashback sequence.

The set pieces are tense and unpredictable, building to a great one in the final act where a few different lives are on the line, and in precarious and potentially lethal situations – but you are kept guessing as to who is going to bite it. The Mousetrap-style Rube Goldberg machine murders are exciting and fun – but are sometimes way too skimpy with the gore.

Also, a third annoying friend of Claire’s, Meredith (Sydney Park), is just plain rude and saps away enjoyment when on-screen – as well as spinning us down a tangent about a ridiculous knock-off Pokemon Go mobile game she is playing.

Wish Upon is Final Destination: the next generation – a fun throwback teen horror thriller with scares and inventive deaths, a great cast, and a premise that could run and run, and kill and kill. And remember to stay in your seat for a mid-credits sting.

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