Michael Peña as Mr. Roarke
Maggie Q as Elena
Lucy Hale as Melanie
Austin Stowell as Sonja
Jimmy O. Yang as Brax
Ryan Hansen as JD
Michael Rooker as Morgan
Directed and co-written by Jeff Wadlow
Fantasy Island Review:
It’s been 15 years since audiences were first introduced to the mind of writer/director Jeff Wadlow in the critically lambasted Cry/Wolf and in the years since he’s tried his hand at everything from 2008’s martial arts actioner Never Back Down to 2013’s graphic novel adaptation Kick-Ass 2 and 2016’s Netflix action comedy True Memoirs of an International Assassin. In 2018 he partnered with Blumhouse Productions to return to horror with the Lucy Hale-led Truth or Dare and though it was demolished by critics, it was a box office smash and helped cement the working relationship between the indie powerhouse studio and has given us a horror re-imagining of the iconic series Fantasy Island, and once again he has dropped the ball so hard the ground has crumbled underneath it.
The re-imagining follows a group of people, all with dark secrets in their past, as they are brought to the titular getaway after winning a contest and are offered the chance of a lifetime by the charismatic Mr. Roarke to bring each of their fantasies to life, with the only warning being that once a fantasy begins, the guest must see it to its natural end and that they are only allowed to have one fantasy. But as their fantasies begin, dark events begin creeping in and they realize things are not as exciting as they originally appeared.
The original series certainly had the possibility to lead to some terrors, with its underlying theme of “Be careful what you wish for,” and Wadlow certainly tries his best to deliver on those scares, the problem is his over-reliance on jump scares and the lack of setting them up in any kind of suspenseful fashion. As soon as a character enters a new area or thinks they see something terrifying, it’s just as quickly left the screen, not leaving the audience with any kind of terrifying visuals to stick in their head until the next “gotcha” moment. When the film begins to draw near its conclusion, the tension begins to ramp up and the characters face what should be the most emotional enemy of all: zombie-like apparitions of memorable people in their lives.
The problems with the film certainly don’t lie in its pacing, or even its humor — which I desperately need to come back to — but in the story and the writing of the film, as well as its scares. Every chance the film gets to utilize a trope well-worn by the horror genre, it does, from evil doppelgangers fighting their real counterparts to black-eyed aggressors to seemingly positive lines lingering without a follow-up to create a “subtle” sense of menace and foreshadowing for the characters and audience alike.
When the film isn’t being dull and the story isn’t further convoluting itself…wait, correction, when the film IS being dull and the story becomes convoluted nonsense is when the film shines in the way it wasn’t intended to: as a hilarious work of “art” in the same vein as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. From its clunky and on-the-nose dialogue to its predictable plot points and attempts at cheap jump scares and atmospheric building, the moment I started chuckling at the disbelief of its terribleness, I couldn’t stop laughing at every plot revelation and effort to scare me.
One of the best and worst elements of the film came in every attempt to reference its source material, including the iconic “The Plane! The Plane!” phrase uttered by Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize) and the classic phone in Mr. Roarke’s office. It feels like it should be a great honor to the fans of the original series, but rather than feel like a subtle nod to what’s come before, it instead feels like a forced attempt to remind people that this is a different version of something that is mostly superior. Without spoiling the element itself, a major plot twist in the film is not only one of the most predictable parts in it, but also the most groan-worthy and delirium-inducing attempt to connect to the source material.
Overall this may be one of Blumhouse’s weakest efforts in recent times, even with December’s Black Christmas in mind, but in an odd way it is rather redeemed by its unintentional hilarity that permeates through the entire 110-minute runtime that makes for a different kind of entertainment experience that could be enjoyed with a group of friends and maybe a drink…or five. In fact, I’m off to go make a few drinking games for watching this movie!