For the last decade, Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions have dominated horror. Like Universal Studios and Hammer Films before it, Blumhouse movies have defined the genre. But when you pump out movies at the rate Blumhouse does, you’re bound to get the odd misfire. Sooner or later, Get Out and Happy Death Day begets the occasional Truth or Dare. And our Exhibit A for 2020 – Fantasy Island. While a horror-themed update on the old television series made some sense, critics have eviscerated the PG-13 spin on the concept. With a relatively small budget, Fantasy Island will make a profit but is it worth a trip to movie theatres?
Five strangers arrive on the mysterious ‘Fantasy Island’, where anything is possible. Their host, Mr Roarke, promises that each guest gets to live out their own fantasy. The only rules – you get just one fantasy and must see it through to its natural conclusion. But our fantasies don’t always play out the way we imagine. And on Fantasy Island, dream s can quickly becomes nightmares.
Fantasy Island Can’t Make Your Horror Fantasies Come True
On paper, Fantasy Island sounds like a great concept for a horror movie. Though the original television series wasn’t horror, it had the occasionally creepy episode. And the idea of wish fulfilment gone awry has been done before with varying degrees of success. Yet all the potential in the world does not a good movie make. Director Jeff Wadlow, who directed the equally dull Truth or Dare, struggles to conjure up even the weakest PG-13 scares.
…there’s more tension lining up for the teacup ride at your local fall carnival.
Unless you’re 12-years-old or you’ve never seen a horror movie, Fantasy Island is unlikely to prompt any scares. Not even a little jump here and there. Outside of loud noises, Wadlow doesn’t seem to know how to jolt his audience. Don’t expect anything in the way of atmosphere either. Arguably, there’s more tension lining up for the teacup ride at your local fall carnival. Even images that should be unnerving are just mostly dull. Of course, the movie’s bloated runtime all but ensures it won’t scare you. Odds are you’ll be checking your watch
Unnecessary Twist and Disjointed Screenplay Accessories to Lack of Scares
Despite the efforts of three different writers, Fantasy Island is an unfocused effort. It balances several characters and four unraveling fantasies, each that could be its own distinct movie. As a result, Fantasy Island often feels tonally at odds with itself. Sandwiched in between these fantasies are additional characters with their own backstories. And weaved along with these story threads, Fantasy Island even gives its host, Mr Roarke, his own backstory. With so much in play, it’s not surprising that none of these stories feels satisfying. Its a problem that’s further exacerbated by a muddy mythology for the island itself.
…Fantasy Island’s big reveal is a cheat …
Wadlow and company do try to bring all these stories together via an implausible and wholly unnecessary twist. It’s a storytelling curveball that invalidates a large chunk of everything that preceded it. While people take issue with M Night Shyamalan’s obsession with twist endings, he at least puts some thought and effort into them. In contrast, Fantasy Island’s big reveal is a cheat that, while hinted at, makes no sense once it plays out. Extra points are deducted for a last attempt at an inside joke that you could see coming from a mile away.
Good Cast Forced to See This ‘Fantasy’ to Its Natural Conclusion
What’s most frustrating about Fantasy Island is that there’s no reason it had to be this bad. In addition to major studio backing and good production values, Fantasy Island assembled a much better than expected cast. But not even Maggie Q and Michael Pena can save this one. To her credit, the always wonderful Maggie Q gives it the ‘old college try’, delivering the movie’s best performance. Maybe her fantasy was that she was acting in a different movie. And poor Michael Pena just looks bored.
Veteran character actors Kim Coates and Michael Rooker are largely wasted. Though it could have just been a throw-away role, Portia Doubleday (Carrie) acquits herself quite well. And poor Lucy Hale – it’s not her fault that she’s now headlined two Blumhouse duds. She’s a charismatic actress and her performance itself is quite good. Yet, for better or worse, Hale is handcuffed to what’s arguably the worst part of the movie.
Fantasy Island a Wasted Opportunity
Complain all you want about Rotten Tomatoes and TomatoMeter scores. Every once in a while, the TomatoMeter gets it right. Believe what you’ve read because Fantasy Island is a genuinely bad movie. In spite of a good premise, strong cast, and the backing of a horror studio powerhouse, Fantasy Island gets pretty much nothing right. Neither scary nor bloody, Fantasy Island is the poster-child for bland PG-13 horror aimed at non-discerning pre-teen audiences. At least Blumhouse still has The Invisible Man and Halloween Kills coming out this year.