The Final Wish Review
Aaron (Michael Welch) is in a rut. He can’t seem to find a job, he’s behind on his rent and he has just learnt that his father has died. Travelling back home (somewhat reluctantly), he’s reminded of old flames, old grudges and old family as he stays with his mother Kate (Lin Shaye) who seems to be barely hanging on after the death of her husband. Aaron comes across an urn in the house and strange occurrences begin to take place all around Aaron, whose wishes suddenly start coming true.
The Final Wish is a fun deviation on a classic wish fulfilment narrative, seen in films like The Monkey’s Paw and the quite terrible Wish Upon. It twists the narrative a little, making Aaron completely clueless of the urn’s powers until the situation has already gotten out of hand. Aaron initially makes small almost meaningless wishes such as wishing to be good looking, after which his friend runs him over with a car which leads to a surgeon fixing Aaron’s cleft palate scar. If you think this sounds a little daft, you are not wrong, reader.
While the film does a lot of things right, there are too many things wrong. It features some gorgeous production design especially in Aaron’s almost gothic childhood home, which is both impressive and scary. Everything onscreen is fine and adequately shot, completely by the book, which makes for a boring film. Everything has its place in The Final Wish, but as a genre, horror relies on surprising the audience and I’m not talking about just jump scares. The film’s story rolls along predictably, following beats we all know and leading up to a foreseeable conclusion.
However, it’s always a pleasure to see Lin Shaye. She’s a true horror queen if there ever was one, from her turns in the Insidious franchise, The Grudge, Ouija: Origin of Evil and several others. Shaye is consistently great, elevating the material with her presence bringing some much needed pathos to the film. She also demonstrates great chemistry with Welch, who is appropriately frightened onscreen, like a deer in headlights only with added supernatural urns. It’s an empathetic performance from Welch who, despite the increasing madness of the narrative, never slips into hysteria and keeps things grounded.
The performance which unfortunately sinks the entire film is that of Melissa Bolona as Aaron’s old love interest Lisa. While Bolona looks the part, she fails to bring any nuance to her performance or chemistry with any of her co-stars. She is exceedingly out of her league, especially when paired up with Welch, who might be an under-seen actor but has had a long career, and horror icon, Tony Todd. Candyman himself shows up as Librarian Colin who explains the urn’s origins to the scared couple and it’s a joy to see Todd in a schlocky horror.
While Welch and Shaye are truly great, it’s hard to forgive The Final Wish for all its narrative missteps. This is a film that is too complicated and too packed full of extras that it doesn’t need. Aaron’s friend Tyrone (Jean Elie) is a little pointless, coming and going as the narrative dictates but never contributing anything meaningful. Old school bully called Derek (Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau) - why are all American douche bags called Derek? - seems like a caricature from the 80s and feels like dead weight in a story that has enough going on already.
Yet, director Timothy Woodward Jr. delivers plenty of great shocks to keep things occasionally interesting. The Final Wish may not be as original as it seems to believe, but it is effective. There is great scary imagery, even if some of it is terribly clichéd, especially the horribly rundown mental asylum, but at least it’s all cohesive. At its best, The Final Wish is a rollercoaster ride of thrills and features another delightfully unhinged performance from Lin Shaye.
The Final Wish is released digitally on May 25th.
The Final Wish (2018)
Dir: Timothy Woodward Jr. | Cast: Lin Shaye, Melissa Bolona, Michael Welch, Spencer Locke | Writers: Jeffrey Reddick (screenplay), Jeffrey Reddick (story), Jonathan Doyle (screenplay), William Halfon (screenplay)