Wish Upon (2017) Review

wu1WISH UPON (2017)

Dir: John R Leonetti
Stars: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Sydney Park, Shannon Purser, Mitchell Slaggert, Ki Hong Lee, Elisabeth Rohm, Sherilyn Fenn

Released 28 July by Orion Pictures

Clare (Joey King) is a teenager who has plenty to deal with. After her mother committed suicide before her eyes when she was little, her father Jonathan (Nineties star Ryan Phillippe) has struggled to make ends meet, resorting to scavenging for valuables in dumpsters. This makes Clare a target for bullying from the popular kids at school and leaves her without the confidence to pursue her unrequited crush on handsome fellow student Paul (Mitchell Slaggert).

But this all changes when her father discovers a curious music box – one that Clare soon learns has the power to grant wishes. After turning her fortunes around, Clare is living a charmed life… until she realises there is a price to pay for each wish.

I think it’s best to cut to the chase and state that Wish Upon is very much a teen horror movie. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but if you’re expecting the complexity and emotional depth of a Babadook or The Witch, you will be disappointed. This is Blumhouse-style horror, nothing more and nothing less.
Instead Wish Upon is a fun update on The Monkey’s Paw for the Pokemon Go generation.

wu2A blend of Wishmaster and Final Destination, with a little The Craft sprinkled in for good measure, director Leonetti delivers a film that looks great and even manages to deliver a couple of moments of surprising gore and spookiness. Yes, this does include a couple of feeble jump-scares, but we’re now at the point when I feel those are inevitable in a new release. One effectively tense sequence during a thunderstorm is a real highlight.

The cast are all competent at worst, with King carrying the bulk of the film’s emotional weight admirably. Last seen by genre fans in The Conjuring, she is developing into a very impressive actress. She is ably backed up by the supremely likeable trio of standout co-stars Ki Hong Lee, Shannon Purser and the scene-stealing Sydney Park, who is certainly a face to look out for in the future. It certainly helps that each of the characters gets to recite well-written and often very witty dialogue from Barbara Marshall’s sharp screenplay.

There’s also some eye-catching production design on display, especially in the sinister music box which feels like a nice mix between the creations of Guillermo Del Toro and Hellraiser’s infamous Lament Configuration puzzle box. I imagine a line of replicas will be forthcoming and will make a significant amount of cash!

wu3However, the film does have some flaws. It isn’t the most original of plot lines (at times lifting quite heavily from the superior films that came before) and the story is perhaps a little too simple, missing some opportunities to be cleverer. Also, some emotional beats miss their mark by some distance (every cool-dad-saxophone scene is excruciatingly cringe-worthy) and, sadly, the ending is heavily telegraphed and marred by some iffy effects work.

Nonetheless Wish Upon is an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes, and I imagine it will go over very well with youngsters who are only just discovering the genre.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay it is that Wish Upon feels like a fun, intriguing, opening chapter of a new sleeper franchise – and I will certainly be on board for any further instalments.

6/10

Dark House aka Darkroom (2013) DVD Review

DARK HOUSE 001DARK HOUSE aka DARKROOM (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Kaylee DeFer, Elisabeth Rohm, Christian Campbell, Tobias Segal

Written by: Michaelbrent Collings

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 77 minutes

Directed by: Britt Napier

UK Release Date: 17th March 2014

Distributor: Three Wolves

Michelle (Kaylee DeFer) is unemployed and as we join her she is desperately searching the classifieds for jobs. It turns out that she’s in rehab following a car accident that claimed the lives of three of her friends and left her as the only survivor. One possibility for employment takes her to 1040 Mill View Lane, a large property that appears more like a stately home. On arrival she’s told that instead of doing some PR work which is what she was lead to believe she was there for, she is in demand for some modelling for a ‘real estate weekly’ magazine.

DARK HOUSE 002The house indeed is huge, and Michelle is whisked through the endless corridors to a dressing room where she is provided with an outfit, shoes and make-up. During this new assignment for Michelle we are provided with a number of flashbacks which look back at her time spent in the rehab facility and offer more detail with regard to her state of mind and also the mental state in which the accident left her. It also highlights the rather dictatorial stance taken by the lead psychiatrist that resulted in Michelle remaining in rehab for much longer than she herself felt was necessary. This is certainly another factor in establishing her rather fragile state of mind.

Meanwhile back at 1040 Mill View Lane, once fully prepared for her ‘photo shoot’ Michelle finds herself roaming the corridors of the house searching for Larry (Christian Campbell) who hired her for the job, and discovers some very concerning things such as photographs of her getting undressed just minutes previously and weird video footage being played on a small portable television. Is this simply her delicate sensibility playing tricks on her mind, or is there something more sinister at play?

I must admit the first third of Dark House intrigued me. It had a genuinely interesting character with a solid backstory that had a level of depth to it. Sadly though, as the film progressed it seemed to sink into the usual contemporary horror pitfalls of becoming a somewhat nonsensical gore-fest reliant heavily on torture. I’m no Daily Mail journalist with a puritanical view on their grimly created ‘torture-porn’ moniker, as I really do have a deep rooted love of the red stuff. If that involves shackles, cuffs and the peeling of skin from body parts then so be it! However, the descent into this from what began as a very nicely poised character study can only be described as disappointing.

Michaelbrent Collings has written two features now, and coincidentally I reviewed his debut script only two weeks ago – the WWE produced Barricade. The two films are very different, yet also display striking similarities such as the schizophrenic direction that they seem to take and the attempt to blend differing aspects of the genre that don’t seem to mix. It’s a shame as with Dark House they have a good lead actress in Kaylee DeFer and a premise that could have gone in a more natural destination.

DARK HOUSE 003A final word on our beloved distributor Three Wolves, and for once I’m not beginning a review by highlighting their inadequacies as worthy distributors of horror films for they’re just consigned to a footnote. To be honest there is not as much to pick apart as usual from this release apart from the ubiquitous title change, Darkroom > Dark House. That said, they still insist on committing an offence that I consider to be incredibly heinous, and that’s the creation of fake cover quotes. For Dark House we have “Sick, twisted… outstanding” from ‘Tombstone Review’ and also “one of the most terrifying films ever released” from ‘DVD Review’. These are fake, and I consider it to be deception to put such false praise on a DVD box.

Caveat emptor – buyer beware.

3 out of 10