Film Review: Fantasy Island

Review by Frances Winston

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow – Starring: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker, Parisa Fitz-Henley

The classic TV show reboots continue with this offering, which serves as a prequel to the glossy Arron Spelling produced TV series, which ran from 1977-1984.

That show starred Ricardo Montalbán as the mysterious Mr. Roarke, and Hervé Villechaize as his assistant Tattoo. Here they are replaced with Michael Peña as Roarke (adding to his reboot catalogue after CHiPs) and Parisa Fitz-Henley as his assistant, Julia – yep not a Tattoo in sight!

In case the title of the show didn’t give it away, the premise was that people vacationing on the island could literally live out any fantasy they wanted – although they didn’t always work out the way they thought. In light of that, this has been re-imagined as a horror movie!

The plot retains the idea of the series, with people arriving on the island in the hope of living out their heart’s desire. In this case, five strangers, all with very different fantasies, win a holiday, and arrive to great fanfare. It all quickly turns sour however, when their fantasies turn out to have a dark side. And not only that, but it appears that they are actually all living one person’s revenge fantasy, rather than the one they requested.

Fantasy Island doesn’t enjoy the kind of cult fandom that many shows of its era do, so you have to wonder what inspired this reboot/prequel. Also fans of the original show aren’t usually the target demographic for these kinds of films.

Yes, this is a horror, but within that genre there are numerous sub-genres, and this seems to be trying to cover them all. There’s zombies, ghosts, torture porn, psychological terror, and pretty much anything else you can think of. No doubt producers thought this was more bang for your buck, but the reality is that it dilutes the ethos of each sub-genre, and doesn’t generate nearly as many shocks and scares as they hoped.

Pena seems like a lovely guy. But he doesn’t have a fraction of the charisma of Montalbán. I couldn’t imagine him enticing people to go on a Club 18-30 holiday, never mind trekking to an exotic island to live out a questionable fantasy. He seems horribly miscast. Maggie Q is great as a tortured businesswoman, hiding a dark secret, and Portia Doubleday does a good job as a former mean girl, but to be honest, none of the cast are really tested here, and it is pretty much horror by numbers.

This is as if they write five or six short horrors, and merged them to make one movie. It seems like a pointless enterprise. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just meh, which is possibly the worst thing a movie can be. It has stunning visuals, but other than that it has absolutely no substance or direction, and the numerous twists and turns get tedious after a while. The ending indicates that they are clearly trying to spawn a franchise, but this is the kind of Island you only visit once, just to say you’ve been there.

In Cinemas Now!

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The new LGBT magazine; available online, for download and on podcast. It's time for another view.
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