Delving into the past can lead a person to uncover a far more sinister discovery than they originally anticipated. That’s certainly the case for actor Michael Welch‘s troubled protagonist in the new horror film, ‘The Final Wish.’ The gritty and stylistic drama follows the conflicted character as he sets out to confront his past demons, but instead uncovers a mystery that is far more evil than it initially seems.
The movie is set to play in select theaters across the U.S. this Thursday, January 24, courtesy of Cinedigm. The official theatrical release comes after ‘The Final Wish’ had its World Premiere at this past fall’s Screamfest Horror Film Festival in Los Angeles, where one of Welch’s co-stars, Lin Shaye, served as the festival ambassador.
‘The Final Wish’ was directed by Timothy Woodward, Jr. and co-written by Jeffrey Reddick, both of whom also served as producers on the drama. Jonathan Doyle and William Halfon also served as scribes on the script.
‘The Final Wish’ follows the struggles of Aaron Hammond (Welch), a young law school graduate who does’t seem to have any luck in his professional or personal lives. After failing to secure a job during a dismal interview and getting locked out of his apartment for not being able to pay his rent, he finds out that his father has died.
Hoping to repair his estranged relationship with his mother, Kate (Lin Shaye), and his ex-girlfriend, Lisa (Melissa Bolona), he returns home only to find that things are worse than he remembered. But his luck seems to change when he finds an unusual urn that belonged to his father, and harnesses incredible powers to grant the owner’s wishes. However, the urn isn’t as helpful as Aaron is initially led to believe, because when the things he hopes for begin to happen, terrible things occur to those around him. So he must find the courage to take on an unspeakable evil that will stop at nothing to wreak havoc in his life.
Welch generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘The Final Wish’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed that he was drawn to star in the horror movie, because he not only admires Woodward and Shaye‘s approach to filmmaking, but as an performer, he also relates to Aaron wrapping his whole sense of identity in his success. He also cherishes the experience of making this type of story independently, and the fact that the drama is receiving the theatrical release.
The conversation began with Welch disclosing why he was interested in playing Aaron in the horror movie. He explained that “James Bressack reached out to me. He’s one of the producers on this film, and also directed another movie I worked on last year, which was originally titled ‘Together,’ but the distributor changed the title to ‘Blood Craft.’ So you can look out for ‘Blood Craft’ later this year!,'” the actor shared with a laugh.
“But James reached out and let me know he had this project, and sent me the script. After that, I got in touch with Tim Woodward, who’s the director. He let me know that Lin Shaye and Melissa Bolona were involved, and that was definitely a big selling point for me,” the performer revealed.
Signing on to play Aaron in ‘The Final Wish’ was a “quick process, because that’s how Tim likes to work. Creatively, he exists in a realm of chaos, which works really well for certain people. He doesn’t like people to be overly prepared; he likes things to be organic,” Welch also revealed.
“The way that we rehearsed on set was that the first time we read a scene out loud, Tim wouldn’t even watch it. He would just close his eyes and listen to it, and see if anything didn’t feel right,” the actor noted. “Based on the sound of the rehearsal alone, he would make his initial notes and adjustments. We would then go from there. So it was an interesting way to work. He’s very instinct driven, and I enjoyed working with him in that way.”
Going back to what specifically appealed to the performer about the character of Aaron was “that he’s this guy who’s whole sense of identity was wrapped up in his success, or in his case, lack thereof. That’s something that I relate to a lot, as an actor. I’ve been acting for over 20 years now.
“I don’t know if it’s the healthiest mentality, but I definitely wrap up my sense of identity in what I do, especially during those times in my life when it’s not going so well. That’s certainly the case for anybody who has any longevity in this business,” the performer admitted with a laugh. “You start to think that there must be something wrong with me, and that can be a debilitating feeling.”
The character of Aaron “grew up in a small town, and then moved to the big city with big dreams, and it’s just not happening for him. He’s grown bitter and angry about that. He’s now forced to go back home because of the death of his father, and he has to go help his mother make arrangements and console her,” Welch noted. “But at this point, he’s so estranged from his roots that’s a difficult situation for him and everyone in his life to work through. He’s a character who I felt a gut connection to, and I wanted to go on that journey with him.”
The actor then followed up on what his experience of working with Woodward as the film’s director was like, especially as they worked on creating the arc and relatability for Aaron. “Tim is that wonderful and rare combination of a director who totally trusts his actors. But at the same time, he’s not afraid to let them know when things aren’t working. So you feel safe with him, and like you can go to some interesting places, knowing that he can reel you back in.” He added that “When you work with someone like Tim, you can do whatever your instincts tell you to do, and he’ll steer you in the right direction. So it was a really great collaborative experience.”
As a filmmaker, Woodward generally breaks the rules of traditional movie production. Actors are given the freedom to improvise, and their creative input is encouraged. The performer then delved into how much creative input he had on his role of Aaron in ‘The Final Wish,’ and the process of improvisating on the set.
“We were definitely making adjustments as we went along. None of us were married to the words…We would all get together with Tim, as well as Jeffrey, the writer, who was on the set all the time. We would figure out the best version of the story. So there was definitely room for improv,” Welch shared. “Tim would never throw out line readings, but he would paraphrase a lot, as if to say, this is the kind of feel I’m looking for in this moment. Maybe I would argue with it, or just go with it.”
The actor also admitted that “The creative process can be messy and complicated. But ultimately, as long as everyone as the same goal, there’s a level of fun and trust. It was a pretty cool process to be a part of on set.”
The performer then further delved into what his experience of working with Shaye was like, especially since she’s a horror icon, and is passionate about the genre. “Lin is so strong and smart, and just commands a level of respect when she’s on set, which is well deserved after having a career of almost 45 years. On top of that, she also couldn’t be nicer and more cooperative in any way.”
Welch added that “I don’t think this movie would be nearly as strong as it is if it wasn’t for Lin. She brought so much to her character, and her relationship with her son…Lin had all of these great ideas about how to add to the tension and awkwardness in our relationship.
“One example of that is when Kate and Aaron reunite when he returns home. It was originally written in the script that they have this happy reunion, because they hadn’t seen each other in so long. But once she got to set, Lin said, ‘No, that’s not what this is. I think I need to be a little cold here, and need a little distance. I need to protect myself, because I don’t know if this kid’s going to take off again,'” the actor shared. “I think she really found ways to add to the dynamics of the relationship that really helped move the story forward.”
Shaye’s “actually the master of improvising on set. I actually learned something from her, which is to trust the editors,” the performer admitted with a laugh. “I’m very controlling when it comes to my work. I have an idea of how I want something to come out, and sometimes it’s difficult for me to stray from that.
“But Lin’s attitude is, they’re not going to use all of this; they’re going to use the best take that works. So I don’t have to present them with the perfect package every time; instead, I can just play. As a result, you find so many interesting things,” Welch explained. “Some of Lin’s best moments come from just improvising in the space. She did a lot of that for this film, and I’m very grateful for that; I don’t think we would have had as great of a movie if she didn’t do that.”
‘The Final Wish’s story is focused on the ramifications of what happens when wishes go wrong, and features scenarios of unlikely doom fulfillment. The actor then delved into how the consequences of wishes not going according to plan affect and influence Aaron’s emotions, especially since his life isn’t living up to his expectations in the beginning of the story.
“The film is really about wishing, which is something that we all do,” the performer pointed out. “We all have the idea of what the ideal version of what our life would be, and in Aaron’s case, his wished directly come true. But they then mess up his life in other ways. At first, he doesn’t really notice, but as things progress over time, things get crazier and crazier,” he noted with a laugh. “He then discovers the force that he’s directly up against, and he doesn’t know how to deal with that…So exploring what happens if your wishes actually do come true in this genre was fun.”
Since Aaron’s wishes actually come true, but in the most horrific way possible, which really affects him, Welch emphasized “That more than anything else, the film is a psychological portrait. One of the things that Tim wanted to do from the beginning was to make this story a film noir and a psychological drama,” he revealed.
“Cinematically, he wanted to show the deterioration of someone’s sanity over time. So as time goes on, there are different types of camera lenses and lighting that was used. That was all to paint this portrait of someone who’s going crazy,” the actor further disclosed.
The performer added that “We we do have some special effects in the movie. But for the most part, it’s really more about my character’s psychological journey, and the cinematic tricks that we used to help tell his story.”
Welch then discussed what the experience of making ‘The Final Wish’ independently, and how it influenced the creativity on the set. “It definitely makes a big difference on how the bosses are,” he admitted with a laugh.
“I was a part of the ‘Twilight’ films, and that experience was like a machine. That was in a whole other universe. If you were in those movies, you were just a cog in the machine. There are things about that experience that were great, because you didn’t have to worry so much about certain things. The head of every department on set were really on top of their stuff, so you just had to focus on doing your job, and that was great,” the actor revealed.
“With the type of independent filmmaking (that was used on ‘The Final Wish’), we were all in the trenches together. We’re all the directors and producers,” the performer admitted with a laugh. “We all do everything, because we’re trying to make a movie in these very difficult conditions. So making indie films, as opposed to big studio movies, are very different experiences. The parameters of the budget always affects the day-to-day life on set. I can’t necessarily say that I prefer one over the other, but they’re definitely different. I enjoy all of it-I just enjoy working!,” he added with a laugh.
Since ‘The Final Wish’ was made independently, it was shot in real locations, which is an experience that Welch enjoyed. He admitted with a laugh, “I don’t know how much of this I should discuss! But I’ll talk about it anyway! In typical Tim fashion, Tim was finding the locations as we were going. So that really created the sense of gorilla filmmaking. We would be locking down locations maybe a day or two before filming. It also created a sense of electricity and urgency on set. It is fun to work like that, even though it can be stressful at times,” he added with another laugh. “You can’t argue with the results, because Tim really produces.
“There are certain things that we had to have lined up, particularly for Lin’s scenes. She squeezed this film in before she went off to shoot ‘Grudge.’ So we couldn’t mess around with her schedule,” the actor also revealed. “So everything was lined up for Lin, but after that, we didn’t have everything locked in in advance.
“I’m not saying that we were unprepared, but we were definitely flying by the seats of our pants. It was a lot of fun, and we ended up finding a lot of great locations as a result. What ended up happening was that the owners of some of these spots would say, ‘We’re not doing anything this weekend, so come on in.’ I’m not necessarily recommending that way of working if you’re an independent filmmaker, but Tim made it work. It was a lot of fun to work like that,” the performer further divulged.
Now that the drama’s theatrical release is coming up, Welch also reflected on attending its premiere during Screamfest. “It was great to be able to attend. It was really nice to be able to see it at the festival with horror fans.”
The actor also noted that “I’ve worked on a lot of films through the years, and very few of them make it to the big screen. That’s the reality of the film business these days; there are so many outlets for content to be seen. I think a lot of times, distributors think, we’ll get our money back if we release it digitally, and they don’t necessarily want to spend the money to have it play on the big screen,” he admitted.
The performer also reemphasized that “‘The Final Wish’ is now getting this nationwide theatrical release, which is really exciting. I’m proud of the work that we all did, so I really hope people go check it out.”