If lockdown is benefiting any corner of the movie industry, it’s the world of direct-to-VOD horror films. The latest to emerge into the increased spotlight is The Final Wish, directed by Timothy Woodward Jr. and with a script co-written by Final Destination creator Jeffrey Reddick. Sadly, it’s a good concept lacking in any sort of compelling execution.
Struggling lawyer Aaron (Michael Welch) leaves Chicago for his rural home in the wake of his father’s death in order to support his mum (Insidious leading lady Lin Shaye). He finds a strange urn in his dad’s belongings that, according to his friend, “gives off spooky vibes”. Soon, everything Aaraon wishes for is coming true, from a scratch card win to the death of a dog that torments him.
This is a pretty standard Monkey’s Paw tale, with Aaron — played with reasonable everyman charm by Welch, who portrayed a thankless friend role in the Twilight movies — struggling with the ramifications of his wishes. He’s helped by old flame Lisa (Melissa Bolona) and, eventually, Tony Todd shows up as an antiques expert who drops a slab of exposition to set up the third act.
The Final Wish is essentially a grab bag of horror tropes, dropping in an array of jump scares amid the more psychological storytelling that makes up the bulk of the movie. None of the scares work and there’s not enough depth to any of the characters to sustain any attempt to focus the story in a more psychological direction.
Much of the film essentially consists of Welch wandering around being surprised by things, without ever really pausing to illustrate what made him move away. The opening scene features an intriguing discussion between small-town Aaron and the uppity boss of a big shot law firm, where he is dismissed just because he didn’t go to an Ivy League school. This class dynamic is never really mentioned again.
Even more egregiously, perhaps, the film completely wastes both Lin Shaye and Tony Todd — two bona fide icons of the horror genre. Neither is given the chance to make any material impact on the story, with Todd in particular coming and going without the chance to ever be his gravelly, terrifying best.
This just feels like a massive missed opportunity overall, particularly given the calibre of talent involved on both sides of the camera. It’s a visually dull and narratively unimaginative take on a story that any horror fan has seen told dozens of times before. There’s a lot of great genre material been given an extra spotlight in the wake of the current circumstances. This does not fit into that category.
Dir: Timothy Woodward Jr.
Scr: Jeffrey Reddick, William Halfon, Jonathan Doyle
Prd: Johnny Cleveland, Thommy Hutson, Jeffrey Reddick
DOP: Pablo Diez
Music: Samuel Joseph Smythe
Run time: 92 mins
The Final Wish is available for digital download in the UK now.