The Final Wish cover

Having just landed on Shudder UK, The Final Wish (2018) is director Timothy Woodward Jr’s third film and boasts a story from Jeffery Reddick, writer of the first two Final Destination films; a fact that is emblazoned across the film’s trailer.

Micheal Welch plays Aaron, a young law graduate who’s failing to make a living for himself in Chicago. The death of his antiquarian father pulls the prodigal son begrudgingly back to his small town home and to his grieving mother, played by the horror stalwart Lyn Shaye. As he becomes reacquainted with the handful of thin stereotypes that make up his old school friends, Aaron discovers an ancient urn and starts to see elements of his life change to his benefit, while loved ones pay an increasingly terrible cost.

The Last Wish (2018)

Although unimaginatively reworking elements fromWishmaster, Monkey Paw, and even Pet Sematary, The Final Wish sees Welch handle the selfish, but sympathetic, white-collar everyman incredibly well (I could see John Cusack easily playing this role), but avoids having to make any interesting moral decisions by using up the lion’s share of wishes by accident, all without realising the opportunity he has at his disposal. Shaye entertains with her own brand of excessive melodrama, but characters are thinly drawn, substandardly acted, and give proceedings a decidedly disposable feel. Lisa, the love interest, who is played by Melissa Bolona, is particularly poor, with her character lacking all agency and seemingly existing only to be a disempowered damsel, passed from one old school friend to the next. Alongside the school bully, who’s since become the local law enforcement, Lisa attempts to portray a relationship dealing with alcoholism and domestic abuse. The Final Wish, however, is not a film concerned with gritty realism or emotional weight.

The film looks glossy and saturated, benefiting from a high production design, with cluttered rural homes lit with swathes of red that cut through the shadows, mist, and the back-lit menace of a nighttime thunderstorm. Peppered throughout with centred, screen-filling close-ups, unsubtle screams, and hammed-up maniacal laughs, The Final Wish feels like an offshoot of the Conjuring Universe, with the main house itself having being used in the recent Annabelle films. A very quick visit to a badly drawn mental asylum only adds to the unoriginal settings and the 2010s, horror-by-numbers feel of the film. The threat relies too heavily on the musical score, with piano and strings telegraphing the tension, portentous thrums accompanying slow zooms on specific objects, and loud noises providing the impetus for lazy jump scares.

A cameo from Tony Todd, drafted in for an exposition dump that confirms everything we guessed from the outset (mixed with vague historic details and a creepypasta anecdote), fails to ignite the final third. Neither does the beleaguered use of a classic “twist” with regard to one of Aaron’s friends. The film does try and play with established elements of the wish/genie/djin setup, but ultimately feels tacked on and insubstantial. Along with a needless monster reveal, the absurdly contrived climax stands out as an oddly elaborate execution choice for a demon, which only highlights the subpar acting and complete indifference felt by those involved. The awkward final wish in question only finishes off a decidedly cheesy take on well-worn horror themes.

Woodward Jr has since gone on to direct Shaye and horror legend Tobin Bell in the 2020 The Call, however, I doubt things have improved much with this horror output as I’d not heard of it until researching this film. The film is unoriginal, and derivative, but entertaining enough, as long as your expectations are set suitably low.

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