Fantasy Island Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Sony Pictures
Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Written by Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach, Jeff Wadlow
2020, 210 minutes, Rated 12
Released on 29th June 2020
Michael Peña as Mr. Roarke
Maggie Q as Gwen Olsen
Lucy Hale as Melanie Cole
Austin Stowell as Patrick Sullivan
The off-piste take on an old television series is nothing new. From the comedic (piste-take?) CHiPS and Starsky & Hutch to last year's slasher version of a The Banana Splits, spinning an old TV property on its head into an entirely different genre is a fun variation on the Hollywood reboot.
With that in mind, Blumhouse has taken the old fantasy drama series Fantasy Island and, with director Jeff Wadlow (uh-oh) at the helm, converted it into their latest horror property. The concept remains the same – enigmatic resort host Mr. Roarke (a miscast Michael Peña) makes dreams come true on his luxurious island resort. But, as the old adage goes, you should be careful what you wish for – and so Roarke's guests get far more than they bargained for as dreams turn into unsettling, dangerous nightmares.
This is a fine idea for a horror film, and the guests' fantasies show variation and scope – ranging from glamorous bachelor pads to revenge on an old school bully, and a guy living out his wettest Call of Duty dreams. All go horrifically wrong (because of course they do), and the guests must try to solve the mystery of Fantasy Island. It's Lost meets Harper's Island.
But just as the guests' fantasies turn sour, so does the reality of Jeff Wadlow's Fantasy Island. The four stories unfold predictably and tediously, like a handful of bad “be careful what you wish for” Twilight Zone episodes all mashed together into one. The pretty, mixed-talent cast sleepwalks its way through the adventures, never seeming particularly surprised or horrified by the violent surprises the island has in store for them. The biggest shock of all is how banal its ultimate mystery turns out to be, unfolding in a last-act reveal that makes the shenanigans of Blumhouse's Black Christmas look logical. Fantasy Island isn't quite as inept as Wadlow's Truth or Dare, but it is even more dispiriting. Why did this thing have to be nearly two hours long? Why, given that most of the audience will have never even heard of Fantasy Island, does it try to shoehorn in a nonsensical character 'reveal' at the end, as though it will mean anything to anyone?
The clever visuals make up for some of the horrible storytelling. As Fantasy Island's stories jump from genre to genre, so too does its cinematography, bouncing between grimy Saw sequel to washed-out war movie. The lead cast are largely unremarkable, but Michael Rooker and Kim Coates stand out in small but substantial roles.
Sadly, none of this can distract from Fantasy Island's standing as one of the worst horror films this year. Ironically, its format and structure might have been better served in the realm of television, and the whole thing plays out more like a weak TV pilot than fancy new movie franchise. Surely no-one's idea of a good time, Fantasy Island instead left me feeling cold and, well, piste-off.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.