Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Fantasy Island

The fondly-remembered TV series Fantasy Island (original 1977 – 1984, revival 1998) gets a horror rethink with this initially intriguing but ultimately lame and jumbled epic.

Directed by Jeff Wadlow (of Truth Or Dare and other forgettable outings) and produced by the prolific Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Productions, it’s a scary movie for Millennials and, therefore, not particularly scary, and carefully constructed to be just intense and bloody enough to warrant a commercially-friendly American PG-13 censorship rating (or an M in Australia).

And that means that you can’t expect anything too difficult or disturbing, even if the appearance of a sadistic goon done up as a malevolent surgeon suggests, for a happy moment, that we’re hopefully going to veer into Eli Roth and Hostel territory.

A group of guests arrive at the remote Pacific Island of the title and are introduced to the mysterious Mr. Roarke, who’s played by Michael Peña (a cool Hispanic actor surely cast, at least in part, because the original series’ Roarke was portrayed by hammy Mexican thespian Ricardo Montalban). They talk amongst themselves about how their specific fantasies might be played out (via actors, holograms or some other trickery?), and quickly demonstrate that they’re all pretty damn irritating.

High-fiving half-bros Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and JD (Ryan Hansen) are soon led to their shared fantasy, and it seems to simply involve a huge, rocking pool party full of bikini babes and hunky dudes. Pained Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), however, eventually wants a do-over with a former boyfriend, little realising that it’s going to become awkwardly personal. And just plain awkward.

Flirty Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale from Truth Or Dare) is the first to have her fantasy turn freaky, as she seeks vengeance against the school bully (Portia Doubleday as Sloane) who ruined her life ten or so years previously, and then there’s Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell), whose military fantasy is the most irksome and convoluted, even if it helps lead us to the chaotic final act, where everything goes goofily wrong.

Whereas the original series offered fantasy-fulfilment that, due to the bland smallscreen constraints of the time, could only be lightly romantic or dopily magical, this is free to instead try for supernatural horror, even if we keep cutting away whenever anything looks to be edging towards the unpleasant or adult. And the characters are so annoying that when no less than grisly old cult fave Michael Rooker (as Damon) emerges from the jungle with a big knife, we long for him to start messily murdering the cast with it. But unfortunately he doesn’t.

But will there be a sequel? One is certainly (and cringingly) set up at the end here (spoilers?) – but maybe it’s all just a bad dream?

Reviewer Rating

Fantasy Island (M) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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