The Final Wish Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Cinedigm
Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr.
Written by Jeffrey Reddick, William Halfon, and Jonathan Doyle
2019, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Released on January 24th, 2019
Lin Shaye as Kate Hammond
Michael Welch as Aaron Hammond
Melissa Bolona as Lisa
Tony Todd as Colin
Jonathan Daniel Brown as Jeremy
Kaiwi Lyman as Derek
Jean Elie as Tyrone
Ah, the Djinn. This misunderstood and underrepresented character may be the most maligned in all of horror. Sure, the Wishmaster series did some awesome things in the early innings, but any major representation stops there. The Final Wish aims to change that in ambitious fashion.
Aaron Hammond (Michael Welch; Z Nation) is a young lawyer who’s trying to make it Ivy-League-big on a small-school law degree. His life is unraveling; he can’t score a job (let alone a partnership), he works in a coffee shop, and his locks have been changed after failing to pay his rent for two months. When his ex-girlfriend, Lisa (Melissa Bolona; Acts of Violence), calls to inform him of his father’s death, it’s rock bottom. He returns home to his small-town roots to care for his grieving mother, Kate (Lin Shaye; Insidious series, 2001 Maniacs), who’s hanging on by a thread. His former high school nemesis, Derek (Kaiwi Lyman; Den of Thieves), is now the top cop of appropriately douchey proportions (and Lisa’s abusive husband). Tension surrounds Aaron, who’s resented for having left home to be a big-shot city lawyer. When a mysterious urn turns up in his father’s possessions, Aaron’s wishes start to come true with deadly side effects. The reason for his double-edged prosperity is both more ancient and more horrifying than anyone could imagine.
The story of wishes with deadly consequences to both the wisher and that person’s loved ones is an old one. You’ve probably read The Monkey’s Paw, the template for mounting tension with a “be careful what you wish for” moral. It’s treading in familiar territory but doing so under the rather brilliant pen of Jeffrey Reddick, the mastermind writer behind the Final Destination series. His style is all over this little gem of a cautionary tale of grief and the heart’s desire. It may be a tale you’ve seen before, but The Final Wish impresses with a slow-burn build that goes a little batshit and turns on its ear in the final third after a kickass expositional cameo from screen legend Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination, Platoon) as Colin, an antique dealer and friend of Aaron’s deceased father. Is there anyone out there who does hypnotizing exposition better than Tony Todd?
That’s a rhetorical question.
The cast is the biggest strength here. Any amount of time you can get with Tony Todd is a huge coup…and then there’s Lin Shaye. She is inarguably a heavyweight of the genre who steals every scene that she’s in, be it in grieving mode or screaming and unhinged insanity. When she turns on a dime, the hair on your arms will stand up! It’s eerie. Her portrayal of Kate is both heartbreakingly believable and utterly over the top (often in the same breath). That’s no small feat.
I don’t want to look past Michael Welch, either. He brings surprising depth to his lead role. Aaron is a small-town guy who wants nothing more than to make it big, so much so that “tales of my success have been greatly exaggerated”. He’s selfish and kind of a prick. Still, there’s humanity that you have to feel for. He has the chops to breathe some real life into the character, and the deftly written script gives him room to really be someone. It’s a refreshing change you don’t often see in horror, honestly.
Restraint is a word that keeps coming to mind. The Final Wish is a movie that stays squarely on the main players and their shared grief while presenting the effects of the Djinn’s power (albeit sometimes clumsily). The steadiness of the first two-thirds makes the manic tone of the third act much more enjoyable, so you can appreciate the way it’s picking up steam on the way to full climax and a clever finish.
The missteps are minor and not in any way jarring. I had a hard time connecting with Melissa Bolona as Lisa. As flat-out gorgeous as she is, many of her lines feel forced and overdone. There’s a bit of a disjointed quality to the middle portion in terms of tone, but once Tony Todd comes along to make the waters less murky all is forgiven. You can’t be perfect, after all.
Overall, The Final Wish is a welcome reignition of the Djinn subgenre. There’s real sequel potential here. I’m curious to see how it fares in the dreaded January death trap slot in theaters, a time when it’s notoriously hard to make solid money. The stellar cast and top notch make this one you’d do well to try and catch.
You could say I wish it success, as it’s surely worthy of it.
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