I vividly remember being in a movie theater when the trailer for Blum House’s Fantasy Island film hit. About 10 seconds into it, the entire audience collectively groaned. When the title of the film flashed on the screen, there was laughter. We’ve had dozens of movies in recent years that tried to take an old property and failed at trying to do something new with it. The filmmakers intended to turn a goofy 1970’s comedy-drama hybrid TV show into a straight horror flick. Was the audience mentioned above right in their skeptic mockery? Does the silly premise of a wish-granting island make for good horror fodder? No. No, it doesn’t. Fantasy Island is as ridiculous as the trailer promised and as scary as a toothless sedated puppy.
The plot is convoluted and annoying, the acting, with very few exceptions, is grating and unbelievable. The twists are eye-rolling, and the cinematography is disappointing given the beautiful island backdrop they had to work with. A group of strangers arrives by plane to an island resort where they are met by the mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña), the island’s caretaker. Each guest has filled out a form revealing to Roarke their innermost fantasies. There’s Melanie (Lucy Hale), who wants revenge on a high school bully. Gwen (Maggie Q) wants to experience the life she deep down inside feels she doesn’t deserve. Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and Bradley (Ryan Hansen) are two brothers longing for that generic party lifestyle. Lastly, is Randall (Austin Stowell), who desires to live up to his father’s legacy, while becoming a hero in his own right.
“…everyone slowly learning that not everything on the magic island is as it appears.”
After we’re introduced to our monkey paw victims, we get a series of boring vignettes with everyone slowly learning that not everything on the magic island is as it appears. Everything about how their fantasies play out has been done to death, and better, in other movies of this ilk. There are a couple of twists that might have been mildly interesting if they’d been set up correctly, but it’s not up to the viewer to put the pieces together, as Fantasy Island exposition dumps and spoon-feeds those watching from beginning to end.
Lucy Hale is, unfortunately, carving out a niche for starring in bland PG-13 horror films. She doesn’t break the mold here. Something happens to her character later that allows her to go a bit campy, and that was a fun time. Still, everything else involving her role was irritating. Speaking of annoying, the characters of Brax and Bradley really rubbed me the wrong way. They were supposed to provide comic relief to bring levity to the so-called horrors on display. However, I was only relieved when they weren’t on screen, making lame stoner jokes and acting like quintessential h***y frat bros. There’s a cute little reveal about one of them towards the end that made the audience I watched chuckle a bit, so there’s that at least.
Portia Doubleday is serviceable as Melanie’s former tormentor, but a majority of her scenes feature Lucy Hale, and their chemistry is paltry. The film actually tries to do something deep and meaningful with the Gwen character. Maggie Q has an authentic sense of regret and pain in her performance that stuck its landing. Austin Stowell has the second-best arc in the movie, but his acting could have been stronger, given the weight of his situation. Michael Rooker and Kim Coates have small but enjoyable roles in the film.