“Wish Upon” is a dumb, silly teen-horror flick about an entitled brat who enters into a monkey’s paw situation with a wish-granting music box, leading to consequences that only a sensible person who gave it a moment’s thought could have foreseen. But it’s the kind of good-natured dumb silliness that’s hard to stay mad at, like an idiotic puppy.
Our brat is 17-year-old Clare (Joey King), whose mother committed suicide years ago, leaving her to be raised by her father, Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe), who is a dumpster diver (a person who digs through the trash to find salable or reusable junk). Clare is embarrassed when Dad roots through the dumpsters across the street from her high school; Dad seems unable to determine why it bothers her.
Also: When Jonathan is feelin’ blue, he stands in the darkened living room of their house late at night and plays a slow, sad saxophone. This is hilarious.
Anyway, one day Jonathan’s raccoonery yields an ornate Chinese puzzle box that he gives to Clare as a gift. She’s learned just enough from her Mandarin class at school to read the inscription that says the box will grant seven wishes (the customary three would have made the movie too short), but not enough to read the other instructions warning her of all the side effects. She idly wishes that Darcie (Josephine Langford), the mean girl at school whose posse is slightly meaner than Clare’s, would “go rot somewhere.” Next day, Darcie comes down with necrotizing fasciitis. The look on Clare’s face when she learns this news and then, a moment later, makes the connection between it and “go rot somewhere” is unintentionally funny. Later, addressing the artifact directly, she says, “You definitely have my attention, lucky box.”
The script (by Barbara Marshall) has Clare making the sort of wishes the teenage female target audience will expect: please bless that rich Uncle August left me everything in his will; please bless that the cute boy falls in love me; please bless that Dad will stop embarrassing me; etc. What Clare doesn’t know is that each time she makes a wish, someone has to die, preferably in a slightly convoluted “Final Destination” manner, as when neighbor lady Mrs. Deluca (Sherilyn Fenn) falls victim to a garbage disposal.
The director, John R. Leonetti (“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” “Annabelle”), realizing that these household death scenes are the only source of horror or suspense in his horror-suspense film, milks them as much as he can. But they’re not elaborate or clever enough to be interesting by themselves, and they tend to turn out stupidly: after several moments of teasing other outcomes, Mrs. Deluca is killed by getting her ponytail caught in the disposal. Poor Leonetti doesn’t even get to wallow in the grisly aftermath, as each death is choppily edited into near obscurity to avoid an R rating. This is annoying. Not that I LOVE graphic violence, but if someone’s going to be impaled, I want to see what it looks like. What am I paying you for?
If nothing else (and there is very little else), the film earns points for a “Twilight Zone”-y ending that’s well executed and funny, maybe even on purpose this time. You could wish for a better throwaway supernatural teen thriller, but why risk it?
C (1 hr., 30 min.; )