‘Be careful what you wish for’ has been a tried and tested moral in horror for as long as we have been trying to scare each other. Penned by Final Destination creator Jeffrey Reddick, and with a solid cast including genre legends Tony Todd (Candyman) and Lin Shaye (A Nightmare on Elm Street), The Final Wish has a lot of the components needed to create a classic cautionary tale.
The Final Wish tells the story of Aaron (Michael Welch), a freshly trained but down-on-his-luck attorney who can’t pay his rent or find a job – basically begging for some sort of monkey paw to come along and change his luck. After the sudden death of his father, he travels home to support his bereaved mother Kate (Lin Shaye) and reconnect with his old flame Lisa (Melissa Bolona). Whilst going through his father’s old possessions, he uncovers an ominous urn. Suddenly the things he wishes for are coming true – but with dire consequences.
When he wishes for a local dog to shut up, it goes quiet but is also gruesomely disemboweled. At one point, he wishes that he were more handsome to get the attention of Lisa, so naturally he gets run over by a friend and must undergo plastic surgery that drastically improves his appearance. That is at least what the film wants you to believe – we could not see any difference other than some slightly pushed back hair.
All of these wishes are being granted by a malicious djinn who resides within the urn, and if he makes the seventh wish, then his soul belongs to them.
The film is all very run-of-the-mill, and a chilling allegory by numbers. However, it does meander away from some of the traditional rules. For example, Aaron can be anywhere when making these wishes and does not have to be anywhere near the urn. This adds an element of suspense while the characters try to figure out what is going on, but for the most part, anyone who has seen Wishmaster will have long since beaten them to it.
The Final Wish is trying to appeal to a wide range of genre fans. It is simple enough to follow, but by combining wish-fulfilment mystery with action and consequence kills that would not be out of place in Final Destination, and by adding a hint of family drama, there is something in the film for everyone.
Pacing is the biggest issue for The Final Wish. The first act spends a lot of its time trying to establish the bleakness of Aaron’s life, but does not include much in the way of terror in these moments and moves at a snail’s pace. The action does not really ramp up until the final twenty minutes. When it does, it shifts gears to breakneck speed, but it is a little bit too late to compensate for the plodding first hour.
The slow pace, however, does introduce Aaron well and develops his character, as well as introducing a boatload of suspense and dream sequences. This is not ineffective, and some of these sequences are extremely sinister, including Lin Shaye’s character slow-dancing with a reanimated corpse in a way that only Lin Shaye could sell. However, the more affecting sequences do not come until later in the film, by which time you may have zoned out a little bit.
The Final Wish does, for the most part, excel in its casting. Welch approaches the role with a terrific combination of likeability and arrogance that makes him the ideal candidate to be wronged by a djinn. Lin Shaye, who steals every scene she is in, chews any scenery that Aaron is not trying to sell to pay his bills – which is never a bad thing. Tony Todd is only here to give exposition for five minutes, which is also his role in Final Destination, but the time is used effectively, and he brings a certain gravitas to the task. There are a few laboured lines and wooden deliveries from supporting characters, specifically Bolona’s Lisa – but you can’t win them all.
Ultimately, The Final Wish is an enjoyable entry to the pantheon of wish-fulfilment horror. It does not wander too far from the established rules of the sub-genre but adds enough to keep it fresh. Despite its flaws and tonal shifts, it is easy enough viewing and should provide some disposable enjoyment to a wide audience of genre fans.