“Fantasy Island” – Movie Review

On the surface, remaking the classic TV series Fantasy Island into a straight-up horror film isn’t a terrible idea.  With so many soulless remakes and reboots simply churning out cheap imitations of nostalgic properties, Blumhouse’s idea to change genres for Fantasy Island is a refreshing new take.

It’s everything that a remake should be…at least in theory.  In practice, this film wastes its immense potential on annoying characters and a plot that completely falls apart when you approach it with logic.

(Spoiler Free Until the End)

A Place Where Anything Can Happen
The film opens with a dark and creepy night, as a “guest” of the island learns just how dark and disturbing the place can be.  Wasting no time, we then go right to the batch of guests arriving at the island to have their fantasies played out.

They include Melanie (Lucy Hale), Elena (Maggie Q), Randall (Austin Stowell), and (incredibly annoying) step brothers Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and Bradley (Ryan Hansen).  After taking into the beautiful sight of the island itself, they’re introduced to the mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña), who runs the island, and tells them that they each get their fantasy, but there are rules.

It’s not really fair to compare Peña to the iconic Ricardo Montalban, as the latter had several seasons for us to get to know his character. Montalban certainly had an elegance to him, that Pena replaces with a sense of mystery. Had the film given him more to work with, it could have been great.

Firstly, they are only allowed one fantasy, and secondly, they must see their fantasy through to its natural conclusion.  As they each begin their fantasies, they find that things can play out very differently than you expect.

A Variety of Fantasies
It’s clear that each fantasy was meant to reveal the inner secrets and feelings of each character, and to the film’s credit, it does a decent job of this.  The fantasies take us to lavish parties, reliving past events, and even a torture scene that evokes images of Saw or Hostel.  It’s legitimately fun to see how each fantasy feels like it’s from a completely different genre.  And it’s even more interesting when they finally converge together at the end.

Who wouldn’t want revenge on a brutal high school bully?

Missed Opportunity?
Before we discuss that trainwreck of a third act however, we can’t help but acknowledge a really fascinating dynamic that the film doesn’t really focus enough on.  As the main characters arrive and play out their fantasies, we see another mysterious character, Morgan (Michael Rooker), who knows a bit about the sinister secrets the island holds.

He’s been hiding out in the jungle for some time, trying to bring down Mr. Roarke.  Michael Rooker is nothing short of awesome and elevates any project that he’s in, but he only gets a little bit of screentime here, and we never even see him in the same scene with Mr. Roarke, which feels quite wrong.  It feels like the film could have been much more interesting had Morgan been the main character, or at least if the plot had focused more on his conflict with Roarke.

He certainly makes for a more interesting protagonist, but the studio probably wanted to focus more on the young adults so as to capture the teen audience.

(Spoilers Ahead – You’ve Been Warned)

We Need to Talk About That Ending
Ever since Psycho, horror films and twist endings have very much gone hand-in-hand.  But the key to a successful twist is that upon second watching, there at least needs to be hints or clues that helped set up the ending.

And at most, the twist has to make sense throughout the entire film, not contradicting any previous scenes.  Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island attempts the former, and completely fails at the latter.

Upon discovering that everyone has been brought for the the role they played in Nick’s death in the apartment fire,  Melanie reveals that it was her fantasy to see everyone else die, because she had a date with Nick that night, but he never showed.  The years of bullying seemed to turn Melanie psychotic, but this is only the beginning of the plot completely falling apart.

Randall’s fantasy also doesn’t make much sense. He ends up being a soldier and fighting alongside his father who died a hero. But when he tells his father the truth, he immediately abandons his men. Then later, they make a big deal about how heroic he was and that he was ready to sacrifice himself for his men. But clearly his actions spoke differently.

Melanie goes from socially awkward, trying too hard to be cool to psychotic, and Lucy Hale sadly doesn’t have the range to pull that off, at least not here.  And it completely contradicts her being shocked and horrified by her bully being tortured.  She claims that it was all just a show, but she was in the room by herself, so who was the show for?  Roarke?

Couldn’t be because he already knew her fantasy going in.  Which leads to another point, Roarke makes a big deal about how everyone only gets one fantasy, but Melanie got two.  Plus, they make a big deal about Roarke giving up his own fantasy of keeping his deceased wife around.

So he gives her up (presumably ending his mystical relationship with the island), but then someone else uses their fantasy to defeat Melanie, so why was the sacrifice necessary?  This, and many more questions arise from an ending that feels like it was made up on the spot as the writer went along, forgetting everything that came before.

Word of advice: don’t give away your ending in the trailer!

The true tragedy of this film isn’t that it’s a failure.  Rather it’s that it wasted so much potential to actually be a decent and creative remake.

What did you think of the movie?  Let us know in the comments below.  And for more reviews, rankings, lists, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!

 

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