At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

WISH UPON (Orion)

By • Oct 24th, 2017 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

 

This is an intentionally ‘clean’ horror film.  Think THE OMEN as opposed to THE EXORCIST.  You get all your suspense and thrills, but the kills are clean.  There’s blood, but nonetheless, it feels conservative-user safe.  The unrated version included in the box probably has more blood but is the version I watched, and even its slightly heightened violence is never overtly intended to sicken. Maybe the Unrated version deserves an ‘R.’ But still, they’re going for a benign aura.  So, cinematographer, Michael Galbraith deserves a lot of credit for what this film carefully delivers.

And so does actress Sydney Park.  Screenwriter Barbara Marshall gives her the most memorable lines, and she devours them alive, playing the cynical, wise-ass friend of high school loser Clare Shannon (Joey King).  Decent as King is, and she definitely grabs the frame, you can’t help but wait impatiently for the next sarcastic rejoinder out of Ms. Park’s mouth.  She has a solid film pedigree and just whistles those one-liners up into the stratosphere.

So we’ve got cleanliness and cynical Sydney.  The third big lure for WISH UPON is its barely buried subtext.  Though not acknowledged in the credits, probably for legal reasons, this is the latest incarnation of W.W. Jacobs’ classic short horror story ‘The Monkey’s Paw.’  It’s been done several times before, notably in DEATH DREAM (1974), when a distraught mother wishes her son back from Vietnam, and return he does, dead, from his ignoble death in the trenches.  DD was a regional horror flick out of Florida.  It’s poorly produced and its stabs at humor suck, but the subtext, and the performance by lead actor Richard Backus make it important.  The monkey’s paw grants its owner three wishes, all of which are granted but bring with them terrible ancillary consequences.  In this film, the shriveled paw is replaced by a large, ornate music box, and it gives Ms. King seven wishes rather than three: it’s a 90-minute time slot after all, and three wishes just wouldn’t have filled it up.

Next on the list of jobs well done are Mary Vernieu and Michelle Wade for their casting efforts.  Pretty much everyone in the film bolsters the tone and are fun to watch. Ms. King is made to appear as drab as possible, motivating her character to make several self-aggrandizing wishes even after she begins to understand the consequences of her decisions. She’s still sensuous and compelling, but she sells adolescent angst with conviction.  However, I felt that getting to the fifth wish was a severe credibility strain.  Her character is smarter and more ethical than that. But the story is fun, and you want to see what unspeakable horror is going to follow the bliss of each wish.

There is, in particular, a gem of cross-cutting (editor Peck Prior gets the kudos) following one of her wishes, when two possible victims – her father and a beloved neighbor – get closer and closer to the moment of their demise, and we cringe not knowing which one the enchanted box will choose.  A really wonderful scene, the best in the film, for its insidious, squirming suspense. It’s a show-piece of cross-cutting that D. W. Griffith would have loved.

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