Review: Wish Upon

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: A bullied teenager girl discovers that a magic box can make her wishes come true, but at a serious cost.

REVIEW: Sometimes a horror film – no matter how generic it sounds – can try and get everything right. They can bring in a few familiar genre faces and give the lead to a really solid actress. Better still is when they offer up some interesting and gruesome kills to keep the gore fans happy. And you know what I wish? I wish that they could have used all that to make a good movie here. WISH UPON is not a good one. It’s pretty damn awful. Joey King is a great choice to headline. It was terrific to see folks like Ryan Phillippe, Sherilyn Fenn and Elizabeth Rohm. And yes, the kills could have been pretty intense had they not cut away before you could actually see anything. In fact, all the things that could have worked make this all the more of a disappointment. What is the problem? Well I’ll get into that soon and frankly, there are many issues.

joey king ryan phillippe john r leonetti sherilyn fenn elisabeth rohm wish upon horror

Joey King is Clare Shannon, a teenager who lost her mother Johanna (Elisabeth Rohm) years before. Clare is a plain girl who only has a couple of friends, and she is constantly picked on by the more popular kids in high school. When her “dumpster diver” father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) – the dude loves to go through trash and find "treasures" – discovers a strange box, she finds that it may be the answer to her misery. After a particularly intense interaction with a bully, she makes a wish… it comes true. Soon however, Clare comes to the realization that with every wish, somebody she knows and cares about dies. Will she be able to get rid of the box? Will the quest for popularity be so tough that she can't resist? You’ll have to see to find out… Or not.

Where to begin. The opening sequence of WISH UPON is promising. A woman (Rohm) is with her young daughter. Something is clearly wrong, and an actress as solid as Rohm pulls it off. When her daughter rides a bit away on her bicycle, the mother places an object in the trash. It’s a fun scene as the audience is kind of wondering who the victim will actually be. After that, the film quickly sinks to levels of bad horror cliches with characters too selfish or boring to really invest in. One of the strangest things involves the fact that they never explain why Clare’s father never noticed his wife playing with the same damn wish box that he finds in the dumpster and gives to his daughter. This is especially problematic halfway through when we realize everybody close to Clare knows about the damn box. Either Jonathan was never around or he just didn’t pay attention to his wife. Stupid.

joey king wish upon john r leonetti ryan phillippe sherilyn fenn elisabeth rohm

This brings me to Clare. Joey King is a delightful young actress, and frankly she makes the most of the role. Unfortunately it is not enough. Sure it sucks to see Clare bullied by the mean girls, but she’s not all that likable either. Once she gets the wish box she becomes a bit too selfish and dim to really give a crap about. The choices she makes are usually pretty terrible, but then again, if her father is too dumg to notice the issues his deceased wife was having it’s obvious where she gets it from. Perhaps it was a supernatural thing, but it's never clear why he is such an idiot. Again, King gives a fine performance, they just fail to write a very sympathetic leading character. She is no Carrie White that’s for sure.

Another huge problem is that we’ve seen all of this before. The kills are lifted straight out of a FINAL DESTINATION film. In fact, Sherilyn Fenn – who plays one of the only characters worth rooting for – suffers a fate that is very close to one sequence in the original FINAL DESTINATION. Now, I wouldn’t have minded all of that, if of course this was an R-rated flick. The PG-13 rating means they cut away from any real on-screen gore so why even create the cool kills. One sequence involving actress Alice Lee – a girl who helps Clare decipher the writing on the box – is actually pretty gruesome. Had they shown it without extremely dark lighting and only a second or two of actual gore it could have been intense. This must be pretty frustrating for the special effects team to have their work slashed more than the characters.

One thing that director John R. Leonetti (ANNABELLE) manages to get somewhat right is the shift in which character will fall victim to the box. There are a lot of scenes where two characters are in extremely dangerous situations because they are connected with Clare. That’s not to say that you will be surprised to see which one gets it, but perhaps with a better script and a better film, he may be able to utilize that a little more successfully.

As stated, WISH UPON has been done before, repeatedly. You have the loner lead who is able to take revenge on those that wrong her, the FINAL DESTINATION inspired kills. and the similarity to the short story 'Button, Button.' You wish to gain for yourself, even though you slowly realize that it will end tragically for others. It would have helped to make the teenage characters a little more sympathetic – they aren't. The only ones you sort of root for are the adults. Phillippe is solid as her dad – even if he apparently pays no attention to anything except digging through dumpsters – and both Fenn and Rohm add a little class and charm. Frankly, as a horror fan, I wouldn’t wish WISH UPON on anyone. This generic PG-13 horror flick is boring, the kills are cut worse than the characters demise and you don’t really care about Clare’s plight. If you must, wait until Netflix.


Wish Upon



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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.