HASHTAG: SAXOPHONE DAD.
Directed by John R. Leonetti
Starring Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Shannon Purser
Released July 14th, 2017
I was a big scaredy cat growing up. I didn’t like anything remotely frightening. Passing by the horror section in the video store was a challenge. If I glimpsed a trailer for the latest Nightmare on Elm Street film on TV I was guaranteed nightmares for weeks. This all changed when I was twelve and decided I was finally ready to see a horror movie on the big screen. I convinced my mom I could handle it because this particular horror flick starred Lou Diamond Phillips of Young Guns and La Bamba fame, and since Stewart Copeland of The Police did the score, how scary could it really be?
The movie was The First Power, about a demonic serial killer and the dedicated cop and his psychic gal pal who try to stop him. I don’t remember if I enjoyed the movie as much as I was proud/relieved that I was able to watch the whole thing without running out of the theatre screaming. I bring all of this up because Wish Upon could be a similar experience for some younger scaredy cats out there. If you’re a kid who has watched Gremlins and Goosebumps but you’re not yet ready for the R rated gore of Hellraiser, then Wish Upon may be able to grant your…wish.
Clare (Joey King) is a seventeen year old high school girl who lives with her widowed father (Ryan Phillippe). Clare’s dad is a dumpster diver, for reasons not made entirely clear. Is this how he makes money? Does he sell the items on eBay? One day dear old dad finds an ornate music box and decides to give it to Clare as a gift. How thoughtful! I hope it’s not some possessed relic that grants wishes yet takes lives in return. I mean, what are the chances of that? It’s probably totally safe. Enjoy the music box, kid.
In the tradition of Lemarchand’s Box or the Monkey’s Paw, the music box grants seven (7) wishes, yet expects some blood to be shed in return. Want a whole lot of money? Your nice neighbor lady (Sherilyn Fenn) may die. Worth it? I’ll leave that up to you. In every iteration of this story it’s interesting to see how far one will bend their own morality for personal gain (spoiler: a lot). This is Joey King’s first leading role and her performance is the best reason to see the film. She’s a natural. One of her school chums is played by Shannon Purser, A.K.A. Barb on Stranger Things. You may be happier with her fate in this movie.
There are frightening PG-13 horror films (The Ring immediately springs to mind), but Wish Upon doesn’t have legitimate scares up its sleeve, instead settling for a creepy vibe that becomes campy as it goes along. Wish Upon will undoubtedly play as an unintentional comedy to seasoned horror movie fans, especially when a character goes flying after being hit by a car and Ryan Phillippe starts serenading us all with his saxophone skills. Hashtag saxophone dad.
Director John R. Leonetti knows a thing or two about making inanimate objects scary, as he started out as the cinematographer of Child’s Play 3 before directing Annabelle and Wish Upon. The evil music box’s backstory may be silly, but it has a cool design. When it’s ready to collect its “blood price” the music box plays slow creepy music. I was hoping for a chamber music version of Terence Trent D’Arby’s Wishing Well, but no dice. A missed opportunity to be sure.