Directed By Jeff Wadlow
Starring – Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Portia Doubleday
The Plot – The enigmatic Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena), makes the secret dreams of his lucky guests come true at a luxurious but remote tropical resort. But when the fantasies turn into nightmares, the guests have to solve the island’s mystery in order to escape with their lives.
Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, drug content, suggestive material and brief strong adult language
– Shot on location. It would be easy for this film to rely on computer generated backdrops or artificial sets to sell its fantastical setting, but this is Blumhouse we’re talking about, where a penny saved is a penny earned. Instead, principal photography takes place in the Fiji islands, which offers no shortage of eye-catching beauty in its exotic landscapes. The colorful coherence strikes a balance of artistic integrity that the film’s mundane shot compositions never seem to echo, but beyond that they play a constant reminder in background appearances, which makes this setting virtually inescapable despite the amount of fantasies that play out before our very eyes. The island itself has no shortage of room, giving ample distance of room the kind of believability necessary for each of their private seclusions.
– So bad it’s good. I would never say that “Fantasy Island” is a great or even good film. Instead, it’s one that should be savored for its cheesy goodness of self-awareness that it takes pride with in every aspect of its filmmaking. As you will find out in this review, that’s better sometimes than others, but the one good thing that I can say is that I was never bored with this picture. Aside from wondering how any of this is even possible, the lunacy of certain fantasies are expressed with a vibrancy of silliness that I couldn’t stop fighting back laughter from. Likewise, the technical aspects for the movie, like the intrusive editing or the horrendously bad A.D.R proves that Wadlow as a director has learned nothing since the worst film of 2018; “Truth or Dare”, giving us scene after scene of transitional incompetence that feels like it’s often testing the patience of its audience. Three such members of mine weren’t as lucky, and walked with the same ounce of pride that I should’ve had if I didn’t care so much about my readers.
– Flat performances. With the exception of Maggie Q, who does shine through the film’s emotionally gravitating stakes, the entirety of this cast is immensely under-directed while displaying characters who were not only unlikeably annoying, but also satirically unrealistic. It’s perhaps why Maggie works, because she feels like the only one who is approaching everything with the air of caution that any of us would be feeling if we were shipped off to a mysterious island, and then told we could change our pasts. For everyone else, no emotional resonance felt believable, nor did its star, Hale, ever elevate the complete picture surrounding her. They’re all intelligently vapid for what the script requires of them, and make you wonder if there is indeed a way to swim off of this one stage setting of an island where we feel like the victims in someone’s demented fantasy.
– Cringey dialogue. Easily the single worst aspect of the film, and one that felt written by a fourteen-year-old teenage girl, if only for the way each character over dramaticizes everything. Subtlety is something that is left on the plane that each of them arrive in, and soon you’re left with cartoonish examples of gay men, single women, and brothers whose unnatural chemistry feels like they could get together at any moment. Beyond the lines that stand out like a sore dumb is the heavily deposited exposition, which has characters in the moment narrating everything going on because the movie has no faith in its audience. I can’t really blame them. This film as convoluted as a running toilet at Taco Bell, taking us through series of events with each one feeling crazier than the next, and with all of them requiring handheld exposition to keep up. I could never invest myself in the plot because each time I tried there was an instance of forceful storytelling that subdued the progression, and never once let me figure things out for myself.
– Breezy pacing. You’re probably wondering why this is in the negatives section, and it’s because this film speeds through so much of the first act execution that its miles eventually start to catch up when the film needs to flesh out pivotal backstories. This makes the second half of the movie grind to a screeching halt that feels so polarizing from the fluidity of storytelling up to that point, and makes the ending drown on with each tacked-on twist that it chooses to add onto the pile. There were around four times when I thought in my mind that the movie was going to end here, only to have my hopes dashed by a wishbone of exposition that that clogs so much of the story’s movements, and makes this whole film around twenty minutes longer than it rightfully should’ve been, yet feeling around an hour longer than it rightfully should’ve been.
– No scares. “Fantasy Island” is marketed as a horror film, but it’s arguably Blumhouse’s tamest project to date, with as little jump scares and terrifying imagery that they’ve ever produced. The former is a blessing to this critic, but it also exposed just how little meat remains on the bone once this company can no longer go to the dried-up well. For our hard earned money we’re left with a script that relies on the perils of the fantasy to take shape without ever producing any hard-edged urgency for the film’s development to take shape. Even for PG-13, this is as artistically flat as the genre could offer, and will leave even softcore teenagers who have never truly seen good horror scratching their heads while wondering what they have spent their parents hard-earned money on.
– The island. Even through all of the wasteful minutes that it spends with a cast of characters you can practically hear flies buzzing around their skulls, the movie’s biggest misstep is the lack of dedication paid to the setting that is cloaked in ambiguity. Fantasy Island is not only a place where anything can and does come true, but it’s a place where many souls seem trapped for eternity. It’s easily the single biggest aspect of the script that deserved more time devoted to it, if only to describe how deceased people who have never been to this place are somehow rebirthed into living and breathing once more while on it. Then there’s the host (Played by Michael Pena). How did he come to find out about this island? Why him? How does he market the island? Are the authorities aware of the missing people that never come back from the island? All I’m saying is more world-building is a better thing, and the complete lack of it here wastes away arguably the only interesting character throughout the film.
– Uninspiring musical score. Bear McCreary, the same man who has helmed the music with such giants as “10 Cloverfield Lane” or “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” forgets he doesn’t have a giant creature to match in this film, but you’d never know it with his boisterously offensive musical score that often manipulates audiences into what emotion they should be feeling at any given moment. This is of course the purpose of a good musical score, but not one that draws it out so obviously with ear-shattering volume that often muddled character dialogue materializing in a wide angle shot. On top of that, the songs themselves are nothing special, feeling like a series of studio stock compositions that feel better suited to play ten seconds at a time on a Blu-Ray release coming soon to you. There are strange audible instances that alert us when a character comes on-screen, like the ones used for the killers, which is almost humorous for how frequently it has to remind us of the character invasions. Of course, no one should be paying attention a half hour in, so it’s understandable.
– Incoherent pieces. There are four different storylines being told through the eyes of the island’s guests, each tonally and thematically inconsistent. That’s expected to rid itself of repetition, but what’s not expected is the way each tier doesn’t mesh as well as the script wants it to when the third act takes place. Individually, it’s fine for each of them to feel different, but when they’re asked to fit together into the bigger picture puzzle that the movie is entertaining, nothing feels smooth or even sensible with how those pieces fit together. The bigger problem is that certain story arcs alienate other ones, and instead of addressing this it continues moving forward with an abundance of exposition that even a detective would be lost in by this point. The storytelling consistently feels jumbled, with some arcs receiving noticeably more time than others, and all lacking the kind of dramatic heft (Outside of Maggie Q) because you invest so little in any of these horrific personalities.
– Twists galore. Talk about overdoing the execution. In the final half hour of this movie, there are four different twists that take place all within this bubble of tropes and cliches that anyone could see coming from a mile away if they’re paying attention. Where it diverts from expectations is all of these twists are basically saying the same thing, just from a different character’s perspective, and it makes so much of the big reveal feel watered down to the point where none of it feels believable or ever even remotely conquers the holes in logic that it helped create in everything previous to this moment. If you can overlook how the island is bringing back people from the dead to play into character’s fantasies, it is asking you to do one better by asking how character’s who have never met know virtually everything there is to know about their tragic pasts. It blurs motivation in a way that no other film has done so in recent memory, and its final twist makes even less sense the more you think about it.
My Grade: 2/10 or F-