06th Mar2020

‘Fantasy Island’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O. Yang, Portia Doubleday, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker | Written by Jeff Wadlow, Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach | Directed by Jeff Wadlow


The latest venture from genre specialists Blumhouse Productions is this horror adaptation of the popular 1977 TV series that starred Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize. However, while that sounds like a good idea in theory, it leaves a little to be desired in practice.

The set-up is almost identical to the TV show. A plane full of good-looking competition winners arrives at a remote island and their mysterious, white-suited host Mr Roarke (Michael Peña) informs them that the island will fulfil their every fantasy. The only catches are that it’s one fantasy per person and they have to see it out till the end, come what may.

The separate fantasies kick in almost immediately: high-fiving dude bros JD (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O. Yang) get busy with a Spring Break-style scenario; melancholy Gwen (Maggie Q) gets to change the moment she turned down a proposal from the man she loved (Robbie Jones); and wannabe soldier Patrick (Austin Stowell) indulges in a military adventure, but it quickly goes awry when he meets an unexpected figure from his past. Meanwhile, snarky Melanie (Lucy Hale) acts out a torture porn revenge fantasy on her school bully (Portia Doubleday), but she quickly balks when she realises it’s actually happening and ends up rescuing her.

As the various fantasies take dark, unforeseen twists, the guests realise they’ll have to work together to discover the secret of the island and escape. Perhaps ranting, machete-wielding islander Damon (Michael Rooker) has the answers?

The basic idea of a mysterious island dishing out Monkey’s Paw-style, careful-what-you-wish-for morality tales with vicious twists is a strong one and if Fantasy Island (or Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, to give it its somewhat ill-considered proprietorial title) had kept a bit of the mystery and stuck to that idea, it might have been decent, in a Lost-meets-Westworld sort of way. Instead, the plot starts tripping over itself and gets increasingly ridiculous, with the twists piling up until it becomes laughable. (By the end you’ll be shouting, “Oh, COME ON!” at the screen).

Crucially, the film is never remotely scary, or even creepy, despite lots of horror movie staples floating about (zombie-like creatures, a mad killer with his mouth sewn shut, a disfigured corpse, that sort of thing). Ultimately, the film’s decision to reveal the “secret” of the island (something the TV show wisely never did) ends up undermining it, precisely because it removes all sense of mystery and suspense.

On the plus side, the likeable cast ensure that the film remains watchable and director Jeff Wadlow (who made Truth or Dare for Blumhouse, also starring Lucy Hale) maintains a decent sense of pace throughout. There’s also a fair amount of humour in the script, which helps a lot.

In fact, if you’re prepared to accept it on its own very limited terms, Fantasy Island is occasionally quite good fun, without actually being good. There’s even a nice little twist for fans of the original show. However, the clearly hoped for prospect of a sequel seems like, well, a fantasy at best.

**½  2.5/5

Fantasy Island is in cinemas now.


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