- Matthew Turner
- 24 July 2017
Derivative but enjoyable enough high school horror that benefits from an appealing cast
This flawed but fun high school horror from Annabelle director John R Leonetti isn't likely to make much of an impression with dedicated genre fans, but should play well to its clearly targeted teen audience. However, its derivative nature means franchise prospects are likely to be limited.
Joey King plays Clare, a student who discovers a mysterious Chinese box that promises to grant seven wishes. Bullied at school and embarrassed by her dumpster-diving father (Ryan Phillippe), Clare sets about changing her life with the box, unaware that each wish she makes comes at a terrible price.
There's a lot of potential in the Heathers-meets-Wishmaster set-up, but the film lacks the imagination to do anything interesting with it, with Clare opting for some decidedly dull wishes (attention from a school crush, popularity, that sort of thing) rather than really shaking things up. That said, the script does at least have an awareness of its own camp value: when Clare wishes her dad was cooler it results in Phillippe suddenly wowing her friends with his smooth jazz saxophone skills.
As for the horror sequences, Leonetti borrows liberally from the Final Destination movies, generating both tension and dark humour as the various victims fall foul of supernatural accidents involving household objects – at the very least, you'll never go near a garbage disposal unit again. King makes a likeable lead, which gives the film an extra layer of emotional suspense, as her obsession with the box leads her into darkness. There's also strong support from a scene-stealing Sydney Park and Shannon 'Barb from Stranger Things' Purser as Clare's two best friends, while Ki Hong Lee is good value as Clare's smitten classmate Ryan, even if his chat-up lines ('You dig on multiverses?') could use some work.
For the most part, this is entertaining enough, though there's a constant, nagging feeling that it could have been a lot better, as well as a handful of glaring errors, like a late-arriving twist that makes no sense at all.
General release from Fri 28 Jul.