Wish Upon Movie Poster

This is a scene from the movie "Wish Upon."

“Wish Upon” is a better-than-average update of the classic tale “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W. W. Jacobs (an internet search will get you the entire story.) Its theme, as you might guess by the title, is “Be careful what you wish for.”

I like the way the script, which is aimed squarely at adolescent and teen audiences, depicts the horrors of high school, finding one’s identity and dealing with the losses involved in growing up.

The film begins with a child who witnesses her mother’s suicide. Years later, Clare (Joey King, “Going in Style”) is a high-school student who is the target of a group of popular kids. Her father (Ryan Phillippe, “The Lincoln Lawyer”) makes his living salvaging trash, and you can just imagine all the cruel names the other kids have for her. She’s the butt of social-media jokes and rarely has any peace when she walks down the school hallways.

Clare does have two dear friends who support her. But they have no idea how their pal is about to change.

One day her dad finds a beautiful, mysterious object that turns out to be a kind of Chinese wishing bowl, and he gives it to Clare. She has no idea the power that the object holds, nor does she realize that, for every wish that granted, a life must be sacrificed.

Naturally, one of the girls who bullied Clare is one of the first to become the victim of the bowl. Meanwhile, Clare begins to have extraordinary luck, from money to romance. But those around her and even Clare herself must pay a high price for the blessings that befall her.

Director John R. Leonetti (“Annabelle”) subdues the gore factor, focusing instead on creepy atmosphere and dread. It has a few typical “Boo!” moments, and a few of the usual dream scares too.

Ki Hong Lee (“The Maze Runner”) has a nice role as a classmate and possible love interest for Clare. He agrees to find a translator so she can find out exactly what kind of powers the bowl possesses. The two characters have an interesting and engaging relationship.

Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t a perfect movie. Some of the plot is predictable. But more often than not it offers up some surprises, particularly at the very end, that many other horror movies aren’t smart enough to provide.

Cinematically, this is the offspring of “Final Destination” and “Mean Girls.” In the midst of superlative summer blockbusters, you might wish to see this one, too.


Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church