‘Final Wish’, as indicated by the title is a modern mash-up of both the final destination premise (I believe one of the producers was also part of that series), and the djinn corrupted wish element of ‘The Wish Master’; the result is certainly more later than former, and whilst fun overall, it’s not without its faults.
The plot opens with the discovery of a murdered housewife by her traumatised daughter, cleaved in two by what appears to be a samurai sword wielded by her father. We then cut to be introduced to our protagonist Aaron, a graduate from a low-ranking law school who, we are shown, is not having the best of times trying to make it in the big city of Chicago. Things only get worse, however, when he receives a phone-call from a family friend stating his father has just died. Having turned his back on his rural origins, and his friends and family to boot he must swallow his pride, return home and try to support his un-ravelling mother. His welcome back is less than warm, and things only get worse when he inherits a mysterious urn containing a powerful Djinn (Genie) with its own agenda.
The horror side of the Djinn/Genie is possibly one of the lesser used horror stalkers – obviously there is the Wish Master series – but outside of that the only other notable movie that springs to mind is the 2002 UK slasher ‘Long Time Dead’ which I remember as being fairly ok, so from this perspective ‘Final Wish’ brings something relatively fresh to the table. Its other notable feature is that it features two long standing genre vets Lin Shaye (Dead End, Insidious) and Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination) to bring some clout to its cast.
I would say ‘Final Wish’ really impresses with two things, a focus on more mature themes and tone and its overall presentation with regards to its use of authentic setting and some good ‘classic’ horror grading and cinematography; the two combined create a really nice atmosphere which, when called upon, produce the chills.
The film does not really focus all that much on the Genie itself, but more so building a focus on a set of well developed, relatable characters within whom the Genie’s self-serving wishes have purpose and real consequences for. Aaron is a fairly complex character where, on the one hand life seems to serve him nothing but lemons, but on the other, his ‘self-important’ attitude doesn’t see you having much sympathy for him. He always seems to be wanting to do the right thing, but there is always some gain for himself – often to help cure his guilt for one action or another. In addition to this, the characters around him, all seem to be connected and consequenced by him in some way, which ties him emotionally to all of them. Indeed, there is a lot in ‘Final Wish’ that focusses on the emotional side of things, and the film, whilst certainly not a ‘plodding’ slow burn, doesn’t really rush into the whole horror, instead choosing to focus on building atmosphere and an investment in its characters.
Once the film gets into its stride the scares do get some time to shine and are well placed throughout the film’s runtime. Initially the spooky goings on are more subtle, supernatural-esk, as the Djinn doesn’t show itself until much later in the film. This leads to some creepy chills and whilst the jump scares throughout are hit or miss, there are some good hits which remind you this popcorn horror has both great characterisation, and effective jolts. Once the Djinn does come on the scene, helped along with some show-stealing exposition from one Tony Todd, things get a little more mixed.
First off the Djinn itself – ridiculous, silly looking and out of place in such a grounded piece thus far, but as his presence becomes less subtle the film treats us to some of its finest and grimmest moments – including one death, amidst a freak storm, which is very much a nod towards the ‘Final Destination’ series; I was willing to let the ‘Indidious’ style bad guy off the hook on the basis that there were more than enough decent scenes for me to let this slide.
As the film started to draw to a close, there’s one bugbear I’ve not mention yet, which I felt undermined my overall impressions, a lot.
The films writing. There is something off about the films scripting and sequences at intermittent times. For example (and there will be spoilers here) Lin Shaye’s character seems to drift between grief stricken emotionally venomous to just acting like a silly old lady. To give an example one minute she is giving her son stick for not being there when the family needed him, the next she’s screaming ‘go to your room!’ as if she addressing Aaron as a toddler – in my opinion undermining her characters stature completely. In a second instance, upon realising the wishes are going bad, Aaron vows never to make another wish – to the point he is contemplating ending it all, then literally in the next scene, under minimal duress, he’s made another! Like some wish addict with Tourette’s he just blurts it out! Here I feel the film just decided to initiate the films final set of sequences for the sake of runtime over continuity. To me this undermined some of the excellent exposition which preceded it.
Overall, though ‘Final Wish’ is an easy film to recommend as a movie night watch, even if it undermines its own effectiveness at times. It certainly avoids enough tropes and does enough of the right things right to be an enjoyable viewing, even if I doubt the films plot would hold up to a second viewing. The performances are great, as are the aesthetics, there are memorable characters and a few good scares; but the structural criticisms I offer above stop me scoring it higher.