The Final Wish (2020)
"It doesn’t entirely deliver on its potential."
This film begins under the light of a full moon. A young woman, blonde, exits a taxi, flirts with the driver, and enters a large, dark house. She’s alone. She’s preening in front of a mirror when she hears a creak somewhere behind her. She goes to investigate, calling to her parents. They don’t answer. The wind whistles. She sees something off camera, and she screams. So trope, so good.
The Final Wish is the first horror from director Timothy Woodward Jr., who until now has primarily worked in the action and Western genres. It’s co-written and co-produced by Jeffrey Reddick, creator of the Final Destination franchise, and features horror royalty in appearances from Lin Shaye and Tony Todd, so there is talent here. But it doesn’t entirely deliver on its potential.
"Any subtext is buried so deep you’d need an archeological excavation to dig it out."
We meet our main man, young Chicago lawyer Aaron Hammond (Michael Welch, Twilight), as he’s having the worst day of his life. The last straw is a phone call from his high-school sweetheart telling him that his dad has died. So he returns to the home and community he has neglected, and his dad’s impressive antiques collection. More horror ensues as he’s attacked by a dog, told off a lot by his mum Kate (Lin Shaye, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Insidious, Ouija) and, desperate for money, he looks to sell an old urn that, according to his stoner BFF, is giving off “some spooky vibes”. But Aaron’s luck soon changes and things really start to look up. It turns out that the urn is possessed by an ancient Mesopotamian Jinn and grants wishes. But this is a horror film and things are destined to go awry.
Look, The Final Wish isn’t great. There is nothing new here, and in fact, some of the stuff that has trickled down or been adopted as horror ‘influences’ can now be viewed as sort of offensive, for example the horribly outdated and thoroughly boring presentation of a psychiatric hospital. Also, a Jinn is an interesting choice of antagonist for a film led by a white Illinois family, and while the story perhaps comments on the dangers of antiques dealers making money off of ancient artefacts from the Middle East, any subtext is buried so deep you’d need an archeological excavation to dig it out. The production design is cheap-looking in places, the camerawork uses every horror shot in the book, and the script is derivative. Honestly, who outside of a thousand film and TV scripts has ever said something along the lines of: ‘Look I know it’s none of my business but…’ / ‘You’re right. It is none of your business.’?
"Adds nothing to the genre, but it’s entertaining enough while it’s on. I didn’t hate it."
Even the way the movie ends is something we’ve seen before in a bunch of mystical MacGuffin movies.
The film does have redeeming features. There’s some nice lighting, some decent shock and gore, and some pretty solid performances - Welch is decent in the lead role, and Lin Shaye and Tony Todd do not disappoint. Shaye is excellent; careering from depressed widow to furious matriarch, and turning it up to 11 as she comes under the spell of the magical goings-on. Todd is nicely understated as the librarian/antiques expert who fleetingly appears to send our heroes on a quest, naturally stealing the one scene he has.
This is one of those horror movies that feeds off of what has come before and adds nothing to the genre, but it’s entertaining enough while it’s on. I didn’t hate it.