Exhibit B to Ry Russo-Young’s Exhibit A, John R. Leonetti’s Wish Upon serves 2017 with its seasonal reminder on why teenagers are the absolute worse. Here’s a film littered with an endless parade of detestable young people, each more abusive, cynical, and vengeful than the last. And with Leonetti we have a formally impoverished filmmaker who shares our disinterest in these characters as he invites you to conjure hapless ways for them to be punished. For admirers of the Final Destination series, where quote unquote tension is strictly derived from experiencing an elaborate series of misfortunes before someone is given the greenlight to die, Wish Upon should suffice. For others, Wish Upon’s shoddy humanism just withers the soul and chips away at good taste.
Bicycling up the street, Claire (Joey King) returns home to discover her mother at the end of her rope and hanging. The once tranquil imagery of her household is now overrun with debris, with Claire’s abandoned bicycle strewn across the front lawn covered in weeds, in what has become a monument for despair. Claire’s experiences at school are hardly a respite, where she’s the target of privileged bullies and their homicidal harassment. Her father (Ryan Phillippe, effectively making me feel old now that he’s screening for dad roles) doesn’t do her any favors either, as he collects scrap metal around town. On one particular dumpster dive, he comes across a mysterious music box that he gifts to Claire. She tinkers with the obscenely foreboding object before one night wishing a slow and painful death for one of her many tormentors. Lo and behold her wish comes true as a young woman quite literally begins to rot, which is more or less greeted with macabre glee from Claire and her social outcast friends. And so, Claire’s litany of problems and defects would now appear to have a solution.
Ah, but with any monkey paw scenario, every one of Claire’s seven wishes demands a payment. As in someone’s sacrificing their very existence for one of Claire’s remarkably egotistical demands. Demands that include your requisite wishes for wealth, love, popularity and even the self-improvement of her father, which is done purely out of repairing Claire’s image. Theoretically, Wish Upon could’ve suggested something a little more intriguing on the unendurable qualities of going to high school. But this is a film empty of intent, concealing its covertly racist qualities(the film’s spectatorship of Chinese culture is especially apprehensive) with a desire to watch people die. There’s an audience for that kind of voyeurism, but I’m not part of it.