Fantasy Island – Film Review
by Fran 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
In cinemas March 6th
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 reimagined 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. 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 impressive as a tortured businesswoman hiding a dark secret and Portia Doubleday (of Mr. Robot) 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 felt as if they had 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 a bit bland, 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.