This review does contain some spoilers, but you’re honestly better off because of them. I checked. It’s fine.
The original Fantasy Island television series ran for seven seasons, 152 episodes, and aired on ABC from 1977 to 1984. Being born in 1984 left me missing the boat on seeing the original series, but the new film takes two of the most well-known references from the TV series and over utilizes them almost as often as, “Get to the choppa!” is overdone in anything Predator related. They say something in regards to, “the plane,” at least half a dozen times and the very last scene of the film is this blatant and on-the-nose reference to a very particular character from the original series.
The new film is directed by Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) and is written by Wadlow, Jillian Jacobs, and Christopher Roach. Jacobs and Roach collaborated with Wadlow previously on another PG-13 horror film, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare from 2018 and Roach also contributed to the screenplay of the Liam Neeson film Non-Stop from 2014.
A group of contest winners are flown out to a secluded island where the motto is, “A place where anything and everything is imaginable.” Every guest is entitled to receiving their own fantasy, which is based on a form they filled out before they arrived. Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena), the man in charge of bringing every fantasy to fruition, has his own not-so-twisted agenda. The winners begin to realize that their fantasies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. It becomes a question of semantics like improper wording of a wish to a genie in a bottle as each fantasy turns deadly; some quicker than others.
The main rules for Fantasy Island are that each guest gets one fantasy and that each fantasy has to play out to their conclusion; two rules that are broken long before the movie gets to its halfway mark. The fantasies toy with the obvious kind of fantasies people would most likely want in situations like this; sex stuff and second chances. But they also involve the unexpected like childhood revenge, time travel, and finally enlisting.
The unfortunate aspect of the film is that its current incarnation confines what it’s truly capable of. Taking a well-known fantasy television series from the late 1970s and rebooting it as a horror film more than four decades later already comes off as a lame concept. If Blumhouse had decided to at least give the film an R-rating, then the kills could have been a drawing factor for its intended audience. Creative kills and inventive gore often save what is otherwise a mediocre horror film. Instead its PG-13 formula, serious lack of profanity, absence of blood, and most potentially graphic moments take place off-screen. Fantasy Island is not only lame but only digs itself further into a barrel of unneeded and unwanted nonsense the more you experience its 109-minute duration.
The cast works efficiently enough that they should be credited with making the concept of Fantasy Island work as tolerably as it does. What’s weird is that unusual brothers Bradley (Ryan Hanson, Friday the 13th) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang, Crazy Rich Asians) are the most entertaining aspect of the entire film, but are also the most stereotypical. Their bromance is the epitome of a dude bro relationship even if Brax’s sexual orientation is a bit of a surprise. Jimmy O. Yang is also probably the least annoying of the entire cast and is almost humorous on occasion.
Michael Pena feels like he is purposely withholding himself from being emotional or having any sort of on-screen presence; something that seems all the more likely when his character’s reasoning for running Fantasy Island is revealed. Maggie Q, who portrays Elena, probably has the most unimaginative fantasy of the entire group despite what Mr. Roarke says. Melanie (Lucy Hale) can’t decide on if she wants to be slutty and vengeful or a cowardly sheep and Michael Rooker will be forgotten about other than his weird curly hair. Dave Bautista was originally part of the film, but dropped out and it feels like Blumhouse threw another cast member from Guardians of the Galaxy in the role since Rooker’s Morgan character storyline culminates with a spear like tackle that was obviously tailored for a former wrestler.
The last twenty or so minutes of Fantasy Island seem to throw every horror cliché into a blender without its lid, turn it on full blast, and allow everything to splatter all over its surroundings. The film offers a reveal seemingly out of left field for the person really pulling the strings, then backtracks and offers another twist moments later. Its reasoning behind why this island can do what it does is absolutely ludicrous. Hopefully you like leaky rocks that drip black liquid in the depths of a sea snake-ridden cave.
When the villains of the film are shot and, “killed,” their eyeballs burst as black liquid pours out of their eye sockets; like a wad of black paintballs ruptured and erupted from their skull or something. This along with the constant dripping heard throughout the film leads to resurrected villains with liquid black running down their faces as if a really bad mascara job got doused in the rain or something. For some unknown reason, the answer to everything lies within a single grenade that everyone seems to snatch and distract the others with in the finale of the film.
Fantasy Island is ridiculous and trashy to the point that it feels like a soap opera. Is it done in jest as a tongue-in-cheek reference to its source material or is it trying to be a serious horror movie? Co-writer and director Jeff Wadlow and his writing team can’t seem to decide. It’s the type of formula that could have been considered a guilty pleasure if it had the creative kills to back it up, but it’s honestly practically unbearable in its current state despite the best efforts of its lackluster cast. Fantasy Island is the type of PG-13 horror film that gives the genre a bad name. This is what turns horror fans away from the theater, which is unfortunate since Blumhouse is certainly better than this.
- Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang
- Michael Rooker's hair.
- PG-13 formula kills what little momentum it has.
- Nearly everything violent is off-screen.
- Cause of fantasies is beyond corny.