Be careful what you wish for – that’s what they say, isn’t it? It’s not wise to spoil yourself with selfish gifts. People should appreciate what they already have. But what if your wish wasn’t to be the richest girl in the world or the most famous pop star who ever lived? What if you just wanted to bring a lost loved one back from the dead? What if you just wanted to be happy again? All Clare wants is to see her mother once more, and remember for a moment what it was like to have a normal life. That’s why when her father presents her with an ancient wishing box, Clare decides to use her newfound power to tamper with Death’s plans – but little does she know, toying with fate comes at the price of blood.
It all started when Clare was a little girl and discovered her mother’s body hanging lifeless from the ceiling in the attic. From that day forward, things just weren’t right. Her father never recovered from the shock, and as a coping mechanism began dumpster diving and hoarding as many random items as humanly possible. Because he couldn’t hold on to his wife, he fills up his house with wall to wall objects and artifacts and things that will never leave him. He sits on his porch and drinks and talks about the days when things were good. He can’t even see the effect he’s having on his daughter, who just wants to move on and be a regular teenage girl.
Despite her father’s unbearably embarrassing hobby that will undoubtedly prove to be the demise of Clare’s social life, his digging skills seem to pay off one day when he presents his daughter with a unique gift – an antique wishing box that plays pretty music and bears mysterious symbols on its red and golden edges. It’s intriguing to look at and Clare surprisingly finds herself grateful for her dad’s discovery, but soon, the tides change. After being bullied by a popular princess at school one day, Clare half-jokingly grabs the box and wishes through gritted teeth that “Darcy Chapman would go rot”, and lo and behold, she did just that. The very next day, Clare learned that her wish had come true, and she quickly realized that she could actually have whatever she wants – even a brand new start with the mom she never got to know.
Wish Upon is a strange little movie. On one hand, it’s always interesting and entertaining to see different interpretations of W.W. Jacob’s 1902 short story The Monkey’s Paw being adapted into various cinematic experiences. It’s always fun to see how writers play with the idea of a regular everyday person being handed a supernatural power that gives them a slight advantage over everyone else — a great example being season 3 episode 7 of The Simpsons, simply titled “The Monkey’s Paw”. However, it’s really quite odd to have a movie starts out with the tragedy of suicide, and follow up that traumatic experience with a man who digs trash out of garbage bins across the street from his daughter’s school, not because he needs it, but because that’s how he chooses to deal with his wife’s death. One moment, Clare and her friends are in a shopping mall montage, giggling and trying on expensive clothes in front of outlet store mirrors, and the next, her friends are being brutally butchered as payment for all of the wishes Clare’s having granted. It’s kind of like if Final Destination were an after school special.
That being said, if I were a thirteen-year-old girl and I had a bunch of friends over to watch a ridiculous horror movie while we paint our nails and call up boys, I can’t deny that I might throw this movie on in the background. It’s clearly not the deep methodical film that could’ve been when working with such inspirational source material, and the tonal shifts are downright silly, but it works for what it is – a summer horror movie for teens to duck into the nearest theater and escape the heat and enjoy. Sure, the lessons are there, about how grief can lead people to commit ill-advised irrational acts in the name of solace, and how actions have consequences, and the grass is always greener on the other side – but at the end of the day, that’s not why people are going to see and possibly enjoy this movie. They’re going to see it because they want to escape the real world for a little while, and laugh at over-the-top blood gags and cheesy dialogue and maybe even have a nightmare or two, and for that reason, this peculiar little movie about a girl who gets what she wishes for is actually a surprising success, because it knows exactly what it is, and rolls with it. If you’re looking for a Degrassi-esque teenage-centric horror story with pretty faces and trivial reasons to kill people off, look no further – Wish Upon is your best bet for having a goofy good time at the movies.