How Final Destination's DNA Found Its Way Into Wish Upon

When you're making a horror film that features a gimmick about a person or a deadly object, it seems almost inevitable that the concept of your idea is bound to draw comparisons from the greats. "Wish Upon" asks if you took the concepts of "Hellraiser" and "The Monkey's Paw," but entrusted the power to a high school girl. By all means, that sounds like a fun concept for a horror movie, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

In "Wish Upon," Joey King's Clare is your typical high school outcast. She's gifted a Chinese music box by her dumpster-diving father (Ryan Phillippe), initially unaware of its powers. After making an offhand comment about wanting a bully of hers to rot, the bully shows up to school the next day looking like she had. It's soon revealed that the box holds seven wishes for whoever comes across it, but once the wishes are all used up, it comes to collect your soul.

Where this idea could be fun under a more confident filmmaker, "Wish Upon" is ultimately watching stupid people playing stupid games, and in turn receiving stupid prizes. It wishes it could play its elaborate deaths as camp, but doesn't quite have the foresight to frame it as such.

While noticeably lesser than its influences, "Wish Upon" draws from a horror flick from the early 2000s that at least gives it its entertainment value.

The comparisons to Final Destination were inevitable

If you've ever been stuck behind a log truck on the highway, you've likely thought about the "Final Destination" movies. As this series of elaborate sequences show, death can be really sneaky in how it decides to take you out. The influence of those films are unmistakable, as they often made you double check your surroundings.

In a 2017 interview with Flickering Myth, Leonetti spoke about how he knew "Wish Upon" would likely draw comparisons to the "Final Destination" series. "The audience know that something is going to happen," said Leonetti.

When you sit down to watch a "Final Destination" movie, it's less a matter of if, and more a matter of how and when. Leonetti knew his audience would feel the same way with his film. The difference, however, was in how "Wish Upon" planted its seeds, lulling them into a sense of false security:

"It's a lot different to something like Annabelle where it's supernatural. ["Wish Upon"] is clever enough [due to Barbara Marshall's script], and how we orchestrated all these inevitable ramifications of death and trick them into something special."

Leonetti paid homage to a gruesome Final Destination death in his own way

In preparation for constructing the deaths, Leonetti admitted he went back to the "Final Destination" series to take another look at the elaborately constructed kills. There was one in particular that the "Annabelle" filmmaker had intended to plan an homage to Sean William Scott's trainside decapitation from the first film with Carl (Kevin Hanchard), the best friend of Clare's father.

Leonetti came to the conclusion that it ultimately wasn't in the best interest of the movie, but still managed to find inspiration from that "Final Destination" kill (via Flickering Myth):

"We went down that road in development because we thought it would be fun. We just noodled these situations and tried to come up with things that hadn't been done before, to make them as fresh as possible."

Rather than being decapitated by sheet metal from underneath the tracks, something much different happens. Carl is on a ladder trying to reach over to cut a branch with a chainsaw, with Clare's father barely holding onto it with one foot. As Clare rushes out of the house, her father takes his foot off, which causes the ladder to fall under Carl. In an instant, the loose chainsaw causes him to accidentally decapitate dear old dad.

"Wish Upon" wants to emulate the shock and awe of "Final Destination," but at least it's funny. Make sure you see the unrated version if you're curious to see how this all plays out.

"Wish Upon" is currently streaming on Hulu, Tubi, and the Roku Channel.