It’s that time of year again. ScreamFest, the Horror Film Festival, known as the Sundance of Horror, is here. Last year, we started attending this film festival dedicated to all things horror and have found it to be a fun experience. It’s opened our eyes to so many new films in the horror genre while introducing us to some directors we may not have known about without this festival. As you know, a few of us here at Fangirlish are horror film fans, so anytime we can enjoy all the scary is a good time.
Our first film up for review is What You Wish For. The film, which was written, directed, and edited by Nicholas Tomnay, is about Ryan (Nick Stahl), a chef with gambling problems who flees to the Latin American villa of an old friend named Jack (Brian Groh), who appears to be living an extraordinary life. Envy soon turns to greed and something more unsettling for the chef when he assumes his friend’s life and discovers the truth.
“The reward always matches the atrocity.”
The synopsis for What You Wish For sounded simple enough, so we did not know what to expect in this film. We were pleasantly surprised. That probably sounds weird, considering we’re talking about a horror film, but some of the best horror films are those with unexpected twists. Seeing such horror in such a lush and beautiful setting because the cinematography is gorgeous only adds to that. There is something to be said about watching sinister acts occurring in what seems to be a place meant for escapism.
From the moment Ryan arrives at the villa, it’s clear he’s got some drama that he can’t escape. As the synopsis mentions, he’s drowning in gambling debt. For Ryan, hopping on a plane to see his friend Jack is an excellent way to escape. We all know that is not the case. When you owe someone money, especially when gambling debt is involved, they will find a way to collect whether you hop on a plane out of the country. We don’t know what Ryan expected to accomplish when he got to the villa. It’s a little unclear. Was he looking for a way to escape? Was he going to ask Jack for a loan to repay his gambling debts? The viewer never learns what his intentions were.
We guess that it doesn’t even matter because Ryan doesn’t make good choices anyway. That much is clear once he decides to assume Jack’s identity. The title of this film, What You Wish For, is perfect because Ryan learns what it means to be careful what you wish for because you may not like the outcome. And the result for Ryan is not the best one at all. He gets much more than he bargained for stepping into Jack’s life. When he realizes the mistake he’s made, it’s too late.
Tomnay’s film is quite entertaining. However, we will say the beginning is a little slow. It does, however, pick up quickly once Ryan assumes Jacks’s identity. What You Wish For does a great job of delivering some unexpected scares. It’s not necessarily a gory film by any means, but when the moments come, it is jaw-dropping. The twist comes early into the film, and we assume that was the director’s intent. You don’t need to wait.
One of the things that we loved about What You Wish For was that it wasn’t that easy for Ryan to assume Jacks’s identity. Granted, the people he was cooking for thought he was Jack. Or maybe they knew he wasn’t Jack, but they didn’t care. But, when he attempts to contact the bank, it isn’t as simple as he thought. Typically, when we watch a film where someone assumes another person’s identity, they make it look like it is the easiest thing and that you can immediately get all the money you want. That isn’t the case for Ryan, and we appreciate that. That was one of the realest scenes, so it stood out so much.
The entirety of What You Wish For becomes more of a lesson in morality and ethics, making the message clear that all money is not good money. It also provides a very thoughtful way of how we view society and the people in it. Most importantly, it teaches us not to be envious of another person’s life because what we see on the outside doesn’t mean that everything is all good on the inside. We live in a world where we only see what we want to see. What You Wish For teaches viewers to see beyond that.
If you’re looking for a horror film that will creep you out and deliver a message, What You Wish For is that film.
- That villa really is beautiful.
- Ummm make sure you clear your online banking history, folks.
- “The world is a greedy place.” It sure is Jack. It sure is.
- Do people actually look up the people they’re working with? All of this sight-unseen stuff leads to many assumptions.
- Ryan is really bad at this assuming identities thing.
- Never tell people you’re traveling alone. That is a huge no-no.