Horror studio Blumhouse Productions brings an adaption of a classic seventies drama to the big screen in director Jeff Wadlow’s Fantasy Island. Opening with a nameless buxom blonde (Portia Doubleday), being taken hostage (important later), Fantasy Island tells the story of five contest winners where the prize is a trip to a tropical resort where dreams come true. The resort is run by the mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña).
The winners are businesswoman Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), former policeman Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell), playboy J. D (Ryan Hansen), and his stepbrother Brax Weaver (Jimmy O.Yang), and party girl Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale). After learning about the rules of the island, the guests begin to act out there fantasies. The fantasies include revenge on a childhood bully, reuniting with a dead relative, a party life and a second chance proposal. What the guests don’t know is that sometimes having it all comes with the ultimate price.
I don’t ever recall watching the television version of Fantasy Island growing up. However, I am an avid fan of Blumhouse’s films, so anything they do, I’ll generally support. The casting of Michael Peña as Mr. Roarke was a great selection. Known for his comedic work in recent years, I sometimes forget that Peña has a broader range. As the mysterious island owner, Peña brings just the right amount of creepiness to the role.
The rest of the cast is generally good with their roles and do what they can with the material. I found myself sympathizing with the arcs for both Maggie Q’s and Lucy Hale’s character. Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang provide necessary comic relief when needed. While Portia Doubleday, aka the nameless buxom blonde, whose name is later revealed to be Sloane and has a connection to Melanie, does excellent as a mean girl. I also liked seeing Michael Rooker back on the big screen in a substantial role.
While I liked the cast in Fantasy Island, the script by Christopher Roach and Jillian Jacobs ultimately ended up hurting the film. The duo’s script fails to juggle the multiple storylines for the characters. I’ll admit that I liked the plot twist in the movie; however, the payoff is weak. Had the script taken the route of an anthology film and brought everything together in the last ½ hour, the payoff might have been better.
Director Jeff Wadlow is now 0-2 with his Blumhouse directed features. After the dumpster fire of 2018’s Truth or Dare, I was willing to give him another chance as I enjoyed his films Never Back Down and Kick-Ass 2. Wadlow knows how to create an action movie, but he needs to stay away from the horror genre, as it’s not his strong suit. I will give credit for some of the stunt work in the film and a particularly strong cave sequence. Still, overall, the finished product comes off as a contractual obligation and not a passion project.
Fantasy Island had a foolproof pitch, and with the right script, the film could’ve had success. The elements to explore loss, comedy, and horror are all there, but the end result will leave viewers with more questions than answers. While I don’t recommend Fantasy Island, hopefully, the film does well enough for a sequel, where the iconic lines “The Plane! The Plane!” are uttered in a more deserving film of the classic television show.
Final Grade C-