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
Fantasy Island (M) is in cinemas now