At the end of Fantasy Island, I had two questions: who was this for? And, why do I do this to myself?
I love going to see genuinely terrible movies: not in an ironic sense (though that could be inescapable) but because I’ve found that truly terrible movies are just as important to my own understanding of the medium as truly great ones. Showing me how something is done wrong helps me in the same way as seeing something done right. Also, I love a good old-fashioned moan.
Fantasy Island is an easy target. The premise is simple; people get shipped off to an island where their greatest and deepest fantasies come true. The trailer looked awful, the cast (apart from Michael Pena) looked uninspired, and the horror looked standard. Then I found out that it’s actually a remake of an old TV show; keeping the premise and setting but sacrificing all of the nuance. Okay, I can’t confirm that last part as I’ve not seen the show in question but I would consider it an educated guess. So, who is this for?
It’s certainly not for fans of the show (I assume they exist but since I only found out the show existed as I’m writing this I have nothing to back them up) since at its best the events of Fantasy Island are barely good enough to be a fake show in Twin Peaks. Is it for Blumhouse fans? Well, considering it was released within a week of a Blumhouse movie, The Invisible Man, a movie that is better than Fantasy Island in every way possible, the answer to that is unclear.
What is clear, though, is that Fantasy Island has nothing to offer. The characters are dull, especially Lucy Hale’s Melanie, who should be the most interesting but is as much a dud as everyone else – even as the movie tries to beef up her mania, she’s boring as hell. Michael Pena’s ice-cold camp is fun, but underused; Michael Rooker is putting in his standard showing in terrible movies, which is to say, with bad hair and a worse character.
Perhaps the worst sin committed by this movie is that it took what could be an endlessly inventive premise – the reality of living your deepest fantasy, and all the careful-what-you-wish-for fun that comes with it – and settling for the lowest common horror cliches. What could have been a cool take on the old fashioned Monkey’s Paw story is completely stifled by the jump scare approach. This movie could be so much better, so much cleverer than it is – yet director Jeff Wadlow approached this project with seemingly no ambition, and it shows. Those flashes of fun, of Michael Pena’s gloriously straight-faced villainy, Michael Rooker’s outrageous daftness, are overwhelmed with the sheer laziness on display on here.
Fantasy Island is as bad as it looks and we have seen it so you don’t have to. The only person who could get anything out of this movie is someone who gets either soothed or aroused (no judgment) hearing the word “fantasy” over and over. Personally, I just got bored. And a little sad, knowing that I won’t learn anything from this, and will do it all again the next time a bad horror movie comes out.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via GQ)