[All images courtesy Steve Wilkie/Broad Green Pictures]
At first glance, the synopsis for Wish Upon indicates this is just another summertime PG-13 horror movie aimed primarily at teens and/or hardcore horror fans. It reads,
“Claire Shannon (Joey King) is barely surviving the hell that is high school … So when her dad (Ryan Phillippe) gifts her an old music box with an inscription that promises to grant the owner’s wishes, she thinks there is nothing to lose … Everything seems perfect – until the people closest to her begin tying in gruesome and twisted ways.”
So far, so typical. Dumb teenager receives gift,
feeds the mogwai after midnight makes stupid decision before thinking things through, then spends rest of movie desperately trying to either undo the damage they’ve caused – or simply survive to the end credits.
But looking into the creative talents involved in Wish Upon, along with a deeper dig into the horror tradition behind the story, provides hints this movie may make something special out of the standard ingredients. Every horror fan may know what is in store for Claire and her friends. But fans also know that with horror, execution is all; so let’s see who’s “behind the curtain” on this project.
Director John R. Leonetti has interspersed directing feature films (starting with 1997’s Mortal Combat: Annihilation) with a prolific career as a cinematographer. His cinematography has been part of genre hits The Conjuring, Insidious, and Annabelle. Screenwriter Barbara Marshall’s work could be seen in the the interesting (if short lived) FOX series Terra Nova.
Wish Upon‘s very title makes clear the influence of the classic, cautionary, “be careful what you wish for” trope. In the horror story realm, “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs is arguably the most famous – and most copied – example. Bartleby.com has a fascinating collection of essays about this story. You can read the story itself here or take a listen to an audio adaptation by Chilling Tales for Dark Nights on You Tube.
With an IMDB estimated budget of only $12 million, Wish Upon doesn’t have to do gangbusters to do well in financial terms. At the very least, Wish Upon has a strong creative team behind the camera and a cast of young up-and-comers in front of it. Adding in the influence of one of the greatest short stories in the horror genre may make this movie a pleasing alternative for moviegoers who enjoy a chill of fear in the heat of summer.
Check out the official trailer below. Wish Upon hits theaters July 14, 2017.