Schlocky teen horror tale doesn’t aim high and manages to stick its landing

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A mysterious ancient box shows up that promises to grant its user seven wishes. Why, what could possibly go wrong?

“Wish Upon” doesn’t add anything fresh to the “be careful what you wish for” genre, but it has its share of schlocky fun along the way. Directed with the sleek precision of a pop song by cinematographer turned director John R. Leonetti (“Annabelle”), “Wish Upon” delivers a junk food sugar rush that you know is bad for you, but you keep eating anyway.

Joey King (Ramona from “Ramona and Beezus,” mostly grown up) plays Clare, a high-schooler picked on by the mean girls, whose casual vandalism and threats of vehicular manslaughter are sloughed off as teens being teens.

When Clare’s dumpster-diving father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe, looking like a gas station version of himself) scores a wicked wish box, he gives it to his daughter not knowing its powers, and she uses her wishes to improve her social standing while lessening that of her catty rivals.

Except Clare doesn’t really know the powers of the box either, and doesn’t connect the dots when every time a wish of hers is granted, someone or something close to her dies. (Ever so democratically, the box doesn’t limit itself to just going after humans.)

Barbara Marshall’s script isn’t sure what to do with the moral implications of Clare’s wishes or the tit-for-tat trade-offs of the box, and Leonetti doesn’t really care. He’s more interested in fast forwarding to the next kill (they’re teased out kinetically, “Final Destination”-style), like he’s in a race with himself to wrap everything up by the 90-minute mark.

“Wish Upon” is often sloppy, but it sticks its ending, which is important. For cheap horror thrills, you can wish for better, but you can do much worse.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Wish Upon’

GRADE:C+

Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic elements and language

Running time: 90 minutes

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