Fantasy Island (2020)
Premise: 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.
Blumhouse’s reimagining of 70s & 80s television show Fantasy Island is at best a passable cheese fest depicting beautiful people in peril. At its worst (and sadly, most frequent), it’s the dull presentation of an uninspired thriller that’s more concerned with revealing its mystery than creating compelling characters.
Fantasy Island wastes no time throwing us into an incoherent plot as it opens with a woman being chased on the island. She finds an office and answers a ringing phone. For some unknown reason, she assumes it’s someone in a position to rescue her. The scene plays as a suspense piece akin to the opening of Scream. However, it earns none of the suspense nor payoff. Small beats of questionable character logic and action permeate the entire film and make for a tiresome experience as you fight your waning interest to keep yourself focused on the film itself.
Upon being introduced to the guests of the island, we’re treated with brushed aside exposition about some contest they’ve all won to get there. It’s not the least bit important for the audience to know what contrived scenario brought everyone to the island. However, it feels overly lazy to just dismiss it as some vague contest. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. But even 1998’s rushed and lackluster I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (a film this one owes quite a debt to, it seems) had the foresight to include a scene showing Jennifer Love-Hewitt and Brandy winning the contest in their film. By excluding such a scene, Fantasy Island is asking the audience not to expect any worthy character setups. That is, until the film forces itself to do double duty when each character is brought into their fantasy and, only then, finally given a chance to explore what little story beats exist in their backstory.
The fantasies themselves are a mixed bag. Simply put, the biggest issue plaguing Fantasy Island is that there are too many characters with fantasies that are too different from each other. There are a pair of brothers whose fantasy is a party mansion. A woman whose fantasy is to fix her biggest regret, saying no to a proposal. There’s a man who wants to be a soldier, a woman who wants revenge on a teen tormentor. Among all of this is Michael Rooker in the wilderness, entirely out of place with a backstory that demands a lot more suspension of disbelief than you may be willing to give it. The result is a tonal mess that’s just plain boring.
As the fantasies converge and the pieces of the puzzle the film didn’t properly establish start to fall into place, you’re more likely to be excited that the film is reaching “its natural conclusion,” as Mr. Roarke would say. Misdirection is utilized poorly as red herrings are introduced through direct, but lifeless, dialogue instead of through action. This makes any twist and turns of the plot that the film hopes to surprise audiences with appear lazy and ultimately unsatisfying.
Fantasy Island is a thriller with minimal thrills. At times it’s an action survival film with unlikable and uninteresting characters. And it’s a mystery that doesn’t engage the audience in any real meaningful way. The situations are not compelling and the spurts of violence are only nominally satisfying. At the end of the day, you’re more likely to imagine a much more satisfying version of Fantasy Island than the one that’s been given to us.
About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll.
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