Wishcraft (2002)

Wishcraft (2002)

In this school, when you’re marked absent, you won’t be coming back.

A nerdy teenager receives a mysterious totem through the post with a note which says that he has been granted three wishes. He doesn’t believe it but tries it anyway, asking the totem to make his dream girl ask him out to the prom. Surprising she does, much to the annoyance of her boyfriend. But as he uses his wishes, teenagers on the college campus start to be brutally murdered. Is there a connection between the two?

 

Well obviously there is a connection between the two otherwise we wouldn’t have a film. But the connection is so flimsy that the whole film just dissolves into a messy heap when it is finally revealed. This is a real shame as up until the finale, Wishcraft is a surprisingly competent slasher flick which has some good things going for it. But in an era where the slasher film had been enjoying a revival thanks to big budget teen slashers like Scream and a stream of lesser quality copycats had been released to DVD, Wishcraft does little to distinguish itself from the rest of the field.

For a start, Wishcraft does at least look reasonably well budgeted. The production values are sharp, the film looks crisp and there’s good quality with picture and sound. Helping matters is a decent pace which means that the film never outstays its welcome, though it runs a little longer than usual slashers. Everything is played straight too so there’s none of the self-aware nonsense that lesser talented script writers had trouble in replicating from Kevin Williamson’s brilliant script for Scream. Sometimes keeping everything serious and resisting the urge to throw in some jokes at the expense of more popular films is worth it. This is particularly the case during some of the kill scenes. A couple of the death scenes are silly including death by bowling ball and Viking axe but credit due for originality. In the wrong hands, these kill scenes could have come off as campy and cheesy but they’re not. Despite the fact that one unlucky character gets their head smashed in with a bowling ball, the scene isn’t played for laughs and it’s all the better for it.

Unfortunately there’s little tension or build-up to any of the kills so they kind of happen and the film moves along quickly. In fact you do get a general sense of two films running alongside each other. There’s the slasher elements with the Grim Reaper-like masked killer doing his thing around campus but you’ve also got something soppier in line with American high school teen dramas with nerds falling for cheerleaders. At no point does Brett, the nerd with the totem, ever attempt to find out why someone is killing people on campus. He doesn’t even bother trying to find out who or why someone sent him the mysterious totem in the first place. He’s just happy enough to live out his wishes and it seems a minor inconvenience that this other stuff is happening around him.

The final third is where the film loses everything and goes totally off the rails as the two plot threads finally join together. The final reveal of the killer is just a mind numbingly bland moment and you’ll never expect such a person to be the culprit. The motive is poor and it looks like the script writer just plucked it out of thin air on the last day of shooting. Perhaps I was expecting too much but at least the rug is pulled out from under you with the most pointless killer ever – predictable it is not.

At least the film contains strong performances from its likeable cast to keep it going. Michael Weston, as the nerdy teenager Brett, does alright in the lead role and he’s ably supported by Alexandra Holden as the school beauty he uses his wish upon. The two actually have a decent chemistry together so it’s not that hard to stomach the two of them falling in love and there’s some humour and spark between them. Meatloaf (going under his real name Michael Aday) co-stars as the town’s sheriff who couldn’t find his own feet, let alone solve a murder case. His acting is exactly what you’d expect of a singer-turned-actor and he should stick to what he’s good at (there’s a joke in there somewhere).

 

Wishcraft doesn’t exactly break any new ground in slasher film lore, nor does it trample the genre in the process. It’s a steady movie if you like conveyer belt teen horror although director Richard Wenk shows some decent promise.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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