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Wish Upon

Jiminy Cricket encouraged Pinocchio to wish upon a star to make his dreams come true. Aladdin furiously rubbed a magic lamp to earn three wishes from a genie, George Bailey wished for a second chance at a wonderful life after a timely intervention by his guardian angel, and Tom Hanks magically aged 18 years after wishing big in front of a coin-operated Zoltar Speaks fortune-telling machine. In John R Leonetti's clunky teen-oriented horror thriller, a bullied high school student wishes upon an ornate Chinese music box, which demands a grisly blood penalty in exchange for each heart's desire. Once the teenager discovers the devilish repercussions of her greed for unsuspecting family and friends, she continues to sacrifice nearest and dearest to secure a hunky boyfriend, swanky new home and the unwavering adoration of classmates. In order for Wish Upon to make our dreams come true, the central character has to be sympathetic as she wrestles with temptation. Unfortunately, Barbara Marshall's unimaginative script paints the emotionally bruised heroine as selfish, irrational and thoroughly dislikeable, fixated on personal gain at the expense of two-dimensional supporting protagonists, who are treated like meat for the grinder. One laboured death sequence, set in a kitchen filled with a malfunctioning sink disposal unit, a furiously boiling saucepan and numerous sharp utensils, is reminiscent of the Final Destination franchise. Except here, we couldn't care less about anyone surviving to the end credits. As a young girl, Clare Shannon (Joey King) discovered her mother (Elisabeth Rohm) swinging from the rafters of the family attic. Now 17 years old, she silently endures the tribalism of the classroom, and barbs tossed by spiteful queen bee Darcie (Josephine Langford), supported by her friends June (Shannon Purser) and Meredith (Sydney Park). Clare's father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) scavenges bins and dumpsters for scrap and trinkets, and outside one house he discovers an octagonal music box adorned with Chinese symbols. He gives his prize find to Clare and she deduces that the box grants her deepest desires, which include hospitalising vicious Darcie with a bout of necrotising fasciitis and turning the head of the school's most popular jock (Mitchell Slaggert). Shy classmate Ryan (Ki Hong Lee) introduces Clare to his sister (Alice Lee), who can decipher ancient Mandarin and reveals the diabolical true nature of the music box. Wish Upon is a derivative bloodbath with competent make-up and visual effects but no dramatic tension or edge-of-seat shocks. King fails to endear us to her tortured teen, and the supporting cast are wasted, including Phillippe, who presumably only took the role for his risible transformation into sexy dad with a saxophone. It would be tempting to use the demonic music box to wish Leonetti's poorly conceived picture had never been made, but that would mean a sequel. Heaven forbid.