The 1990s were an interesting and polarizing time for the horror genre. While some people find films from the era to be especially charming and fun, others find them too hokey and self-aware to be taken seriously. I’m of the belief that horror movies from the ’90s are among the best in history, and there’s something special about the unique tone established in many of these films. John R. Leonetti’s Wish Upon may be a release from 2017, but it embodies many of the same traits that drew audiences to films from twenty years prior.
That starts with the film’s familiar plot. After the untimely suicide of her mother, sharp-witted teenager Clare (Joey King) and her aloof but kindhearted father (Ryan Phillippe) find themselves lost in the world. Financial woes put the two at odds with each other and Clare ends up being alienated by a vast majority of her peers as a result of her personal issues. When her father finds a mysterious music box while dumpster diving, Clare quickly discovers that it has the ability to grant wishes. As is usually the case with films that are seemingly inspired by W. W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, the moral here is to be careful what you wish for, as every wish Clare conjures up has deadly side-effects — leaving her to battle both the powers of the box and her innermost desires…
Despite its somewhat hokey nature, Wish Upon is grounded by strong performances from Phillippe — who made a name for himself playing teenagers in similar horror films back in the late 1990s — and King, who continues to prove that she is an incredibly talented young actress. They both remain authentic for the duration of the film and bring some much-needed honesty to the screen, because Wish Upon gets pretty wacky at times. Still, there are some solid scares and some fun moments for anyone who is willing to go along for the ride that Leonetti takes audiences on with this one.
Included on the film’s Blu-ray release are both the theatrical cut and the unrated director’s cut of the film, which runs around a minute longer, but doesn’t feature substantially more blood or gore. Still, it’s nice to see home video releases continuing to include different cuts of movies for completists.
In addition to the feature film, there are a handful of bonus features included in the release as well. There’s a compilation of interviews that finds the film’s cast and director explaining the mechanics of the mysterious box and why they find the concept of the movie so unsettling, as well as a brief, but entertaining tour of the film’s incredible attic set by Joey King. The coolest piece of supplement material is, without a doubt, two motion comics that explore the origins of the box.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy Wish Upon likely boils down to whether or not the idea of a feature-length episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? mixed with a teen soap opera sounds fun to you. It’s melodramatic, kind of silly, and often predictable, but there’s something inherently fun about Wish Upon that makes it much more worthwhile than many of its contemporaries. The film’s PG-13 rating and subsequent decision to cut away from the more brutal aspects of death certainly hinder it, but as far as teen horror movies in the present day are concerned, you can do a lot worse than this one.
Wish Upon arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD October 10th.