Wanting more out of life is natural, but sometimes superficial wishes have grave costs. In the new horror film Wish Upon, high school student Clare (Joey King) learns that superficiality comes with a price, as a mysterious box grants her every wish — with terrible consequences. I sit down with King and her co-stars Shannon Purser and Sydney Park, who explain how they've learned these lessons the hard way, just like their characters.
In the film, out July 14, Clare seeks a seemingly perfect life: the cute boy, popularity, and more. Although the story goes to extremes to prove that such superficial things in life are empty, unworthy, or not how they may appear, the cast members have had their share of learning these lessons for themselves. "The best things in life — not to be cliche — they’re free," says Park. And it's easy to get caught up in what one thinks they need. "It’s the appearance of things, how it looks to us, what we think we should have, what our expectations are based on what other people think is cool," the 19-year-old explains.
For King and Purser, their lessons came from failed relationships they thought would be perfect at the onset.
"Most of the time, how they turn out in the end is not how you expected, or how you wanted," says King. "When you have a boyfriend, usually it doesn’t end in flowers and roses and happiness, a lot of the time, it ends up in breakup. We all have this perfect idea of how all that stuff is supposed to go in our head and we romanticize and sensationalize," the 17-year-old continues. "That’s why there’s a price."
Stranger Things actor Purser shares a similar experience, one she had with her first boyfriend:
I had grown up watching romance movies and thought it was going to be the love of my life, most wonderful, perfect, amazing thing, and we ended up breaking up. It was fine, of course, at the time I was 16, it was devastating and broke my heart. There are a lot of misconceptions about these wonderful, romantic things that are going to happen in our lives that don’t go as planned.
The 20-year-old has grown up since then. "That’s also the beauty of life, what’s to come of those mistakes," she adds.
And of course, today's teens have the added pressure of portraying a perfect image on social media — something the actors continue to deal with in their daily lives. "None of it is real," says Park. "It’s all extra, honestly. Followers, likes, it really doesn’t matter. It’s kind of sad how people are so wrapped up in that."
King admits she feels the effects of living life on the internet and the need to get validation from it. "There are moments when you’re like, ‘Aw man, I only got this many likes or this many comments,'" she says. "As an avid lover of social media, you have to 100 percent separate that from your normal life."
Purser refers to the power of social media as one that could be used for "good or evil." She explains, "I think there is a lot of superficiality and manipulation, so I try to be as genuine as possible."
Maybe it takes a film like Wish Upon to get teens to sit up and realize what's substantial and important in life. "A lot of us have become desensitized," Purser says. "Sometimes it does take a little bit of that shock value to wake us up."
Projects like Wish Upon may be just what teens (and adults) need to value the many real, substantial things life has to offer and also understand that there's no such thing as perfect.