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Fantasy Island (2020) Movie Review

A straight-to-dvd horror accidentally releases in movie threates and kills everyone.
No that’s not what actually happens.

Fantasy Island? In this day and age?

What? You haven’t heard of the horror film adaptation of the obscure Fantasy Island ABC show?

Stars Michael Pena, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Portia Doubleday and is produced by frugal horror-maker Blumhouse.

Still not ringing any bells?

I don’t blame you.

I hadn’t heard of it either. That was before I said yes to a screening arranged by a friend of a friend.

So here I am, in a Mumbai local, sitting in the wrong direction, writing about it. Count me amongst the dozens of people who will ever watch this should-have-been-direct-to-dvd-or-netflix movie.

Does that mean Fantasy Island is bad? Interesting question…

I am completely dazed and confused. Amazed as well as dumbfounded. What kind of movie was this? I couldn’t tell you. Google Knowledge Panel calls it Fantasy/Mystery, so I assumed that’s what the studio intended. But this seven-million-dollar flick contains meta-comedic horror elements, the likes of which we’ve seen in The Cabin In The Woods.

Problem is, this is no Cabin In The Woods. Not even close.

Did Blumhouse mean to give this to theatres? I did some Wikipedia-ing…

The official Fantasy Island Wikipedia page only contains this for a synopsis –

The enigmatic Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) 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. — Sony Pictures Entertainment

Figures. They’re not that bothered about the seven million.

Fantasy Island’s director Jeff Wadlow’s page is the one I go to next. The filmography’s not that impressive. He’s a horror afficionado, but saddled with a string of so-so cines.

Of course, I came to know all of the above AFTER I had seen the movie. I’m thankful I went in blind because the unpromising Wikipedia page would’ve killed my interest. The movie ended up giving me one of the most unusual movie-going experiences of my lifetime.

Confused? I’ll elaborate

Gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you if this is a misunderstood masterpiece or a huge misfire from everyone involved.

Is it genius or juvenile? It is a little bit of both.

The plot synopsis from Wikipedia puts Fantasy Island into two possibilities –

  • A generic survivalistic horror ensemble where no-one but, as the Scream movies used to call it, the Virgin would make it out alive.

OR

  • A spiritual successor to The Cabin in the Woods which turns the whole genre upon itself

It ends up being neither as Fantasy Island goes for both and ends up with none. When you look back at it, Fantasy Island should have, and probably was meant for the clearance aisle.

But I’m glad Blumhouse didn’t do that

The movie starts off with an intentionally diversified cast of characters, who get invited to Roarke’s Fantasy Island having won a “lottery”. The painfully cliched performances from the cast are off-putting. You feel the insincerity not making any impact – at least, from the younger cast. The veterans Michael Pena, Maggie Q, and surprisingly, Ryan Hansen manage to elevate their one-dimensional roles, but leave no lasting impressions.

The movie kills your interest as soon as the plot kick starts. Should you gather your chickens and walk out?

No

The premise of “things are not what they seem” had potential. Characters living their deepest fantasies, but realizing halfway through that their fantasy is no longer what they want to live in – with a tightly-scripted plot this could have been huge. This could have been the next Saw, the next Paranormal Activity, the next Sixth Sense.

But what it ultimately resulted in, is a squandered opportunity.

It looked like the writers had too many good ideas. All of them could have been explored in detail in countless future spin-offs. But their inability to decide and pick one path, and go all in – that is where this Fantasy Island demolished their fantasy.

Fantasy Island is an uneven horror-thriller that convolutes itself to the point of no return. Some time during the last unbelievable plot twist, you look back and see potential. I had no hopes of being in for an experience of a lifetime, but the movie’s abillity to continously dazzle me with hope as well as dumbfound me with its idiotic choices will stay.

I’m probably over-analyzing. This was just a Blumhouse production which Netflix forgot to “Add to Cart”. Writer-director Jeff Wadlow could indefinitely stay at the one end of the spectrum while Ari Aster stays at the other. But I don’t know. I just know potential when I see one.

My Fantasy Island Rating –

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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