Director: Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker
Runtime: 1 hr 49 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Drug Use and Sexual References)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing
Opening Day: 13 February 2020
Synopsis: In Blumhouse’s new spin on Fantasy Island, the enigmatic Mr. Roarke 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.
Unless you’ve had the fantasy of watching a supernatural horror, glossy romance, war movie, ‘torture porn’ and bromantic comedy rolled into one, you’d be advised to stay far away from ‘Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island’. What is billed as a horror reimagining of the vintage Aaron Spelling TV series is ultimately a mishmash of genres which is as awkward as you can imagine, so much so that you’ll be left wondering just what director and co-writer Jeff Wadlow had envisioned his reboot to be in the first place.
The premise would sound familiar to anyone who remembers the series: a mysterious island, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, overseen by an enigmatic figure known as Mr Roarke (Michael Pena) that offers its visitors the chance to see their fantasies come true, albeit with a price. Among the ‘lucky’ ones who find themselves on the island at the same time are the single real-estate agent Gwen (Maggie Q), the self-inferior young adult Melanie (Lucy Hale), the wannabe soldier Patrick (Austin Stowell), and the half-brothers Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and JD (Ryan Hansen).
Like the TV programme, each of these guests have their own subplots based upon their respective fantasies. Gwen regrets turning down her ex-boyfriend Rocklin’s (Robbie Jones) marriage proposal five years ago, and is brought back to the restaurant where he had popped the question. Melanie wants revenge on a middle-school bully Sonja (Portia Doubleday) who had humiliated her, and finds the latter strapped to a chair inside a glass chamber. Patrick hopes to be a soldier like his dad, and is thrown into a special operation deep in the Venezuelan forest. And last but not least, Brax and JD just want to have the time of their lives partying with hunks and babes, and are brought to an Argentinian crime boss’ house to live out that hedonistic dream.
For much of the first hour, these subplots unfold almost independent of one another, unbounded by the realities of time and space. But if that already leaves you perplexed, you’ll be completely flummoxed by what happens in the next hour, as these subplots start bleeding into one another, such that each of these characters start living in one another’s fantasies-turned-nightmares. Patrick’s mission leads him to where Brax and JD are holed up after the said crime boss and his henchmen return home, while Melanie and Sonja run into Morgan (Michael Rooker), who had previously assisted Patrick, in the jungle while trying to escape from Devil Face (Kim Coates).
In particular, the storytelling in the last third goes absolutely ‘bonkers’, as Wadlow engineers multiple plot twists which try to tie these characters together in various equally illogical ways. So preposterous are these narrative turns that we might as well tell you now that these characters are in fact linked together by some tragedy which Gwen stumbles upon while trying to change her guilt-ridden past through another fantasy, if only so that you’ll be feeling less WTF when it indeed does unfold onscreen. By the time all these characters converge to try to find the source of the island’s black magic (we mean this literally, going by the colour of some mysterious liquid that oozes out of the eyes of those who died), you’ll be left thinking what poison Wadlow and his co-writers drank in order to come out with such utter nonsense.
There is also no joy in the performances, save for Maggie Q. Pena is so intentionally stoic that you wonder if it’s because he doesn’t know what to make of his role; Hale and Doubleday come off more ingratiating than anything; and Yang provides some brief moments of levity, but is otherwise as forgettable as Stowell and Hansen. Q stands out because she approaches her character – despite the sheer idiocy of the whole enterprise – with an earnestness that is hard to dismiss, especially as Gwen has to choose between her own happiness or relieving others’ misery.
Yet Q alone cannot save a movie that is destined to be one of the worst of the year. Indeed, there is no pleasure in this redo of ‘Fantasy Island’, unless like we’ve said, you’d wanted to see how disastrous it would be mixing five different genres into a single movie. There is most certainly no island paradise here, just a hot mess brought about by awful writing and terrible filmmaking we wish you’d never need to endure. Not even a late reference to one of the TV series’ beloved characters Tattoo can save it from being sheer hokum, so tear up your ticket if you must, just so you don’t get trapped for close to two hours in this drivel.
(A combination of genre mishmashing, multiple illogical twists/ fake-outs and plain incoherent filmmaking makes this return to 'Fantasy Island' one you'd wish you'd never had to make)
Review by Gabriel Chong