Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Horror-tinged thriller movies with potent social commentary have become all the rage in the past year, thanks in large part to two masterpieces, The Menu and Triangle of Sadness, that exemplify their greatest qualities. Written and directed by Nicholas Tomnay, What You Wish For is the newest to point a finger back at the cravings of the social elite. Surely nothing is off bounds when one has the money to afford a $1.5 million dollar dinner. Nick Stahl (Disturbing Behavior, Terminator III: Rise of the Machines) steals the show with his grounded performance as Ryan. This searing thriller reminds audiences the grass is certainly not greener on the other side.

Ryan has just arrived at the airport, hopping in the car of a personal driver his close friend Jack (Brian Groh) has sent to pick him up. Ryan’s invite to the picturesque Latin American villa seems prescient, considering he has not seen Jack in more than twelve years. Eventually, the duo meet up to shoot the shit. Ryan works as a chef at the Marriott in Dallas, barely scraping by. Jack travels the world for a private Slovakian catering agency that promises to give clients “the full experience.” 

Ryan’s gambling addiction has brought him to a difficult place, both mentally and financially. As the duo catch up, a mysterious contact, Rabbit, saved in Ryan’s phone keeps harassing him with messages. In order to stop Rabbit from killing his mother, Ryan must come up with $50k fast—who better to steal from than a long-lost pal?

Ryan lives off ramen noodles and 80s movies, while Jack’s life seems too good to be true. The first act of the film establishes the friendship between Ryan and Jack. They are very competitive with each other, and have a great vibe when Ryan isn’t trying to hack into Jack’s bank account. Casual conversation about the planet dying in the next ten years, as well as the sorrowful loneliness that Jack feels, are early indicators that something may be amiss. Once tragedy strikes, Ryan jumps at the chance to take over Jack’s identity. 

Stahl excels as Ryan once in the metaphorical skin of Jack. Forced to adapt at every turn, Ryan lies his way to the top, doubling down on his impersonation even as the scenario grows horrifyingly complex. What You Wish For excels in its twists and turns, serving up four courses of chilling thriller excellence. To spoil any of them here would be unfortunate indeed. I would highly suggest seeing What You Wish For knowing as little as possible about its plot. The second half overflows with tasty delicacies one must see to believe.

What You Wish For soars in a bleak depiction of being stuck within ones means, and asks the seriously hard questions. What would you do to get yourself out of poverty? How far is too far? Class inequality is sadly a tale as old as time, and the gap between the rich and the poor seems to be growing ever larger by the minute. For what was presented as a rather simple crime thriller, What You Wish For acts as a Trojan horse of intriguing ideas with grim takeaways.

Be careful What You Wish For—the film screened at 2023’s FrightFest, and should be releasing elsewhere later this year.

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