What…in the actual fuck…happened with FANTASY ISLAND (2020) that made me so badly wish that my fantasy be my eyes being gouged out and my ears cut off so I wouldn’t have to endure the movie any longer? Add to that an extra fantasy to wipe my memory of its existence after it was all over. Never, ever have I’ve seen a great concept to a feature film, let alone one from an old television show, be so terribly fucked up in its execution. I mean, where to start? This will mostly be a spoiler free review with one big marked spoiler paragraph trying to explain why half of the shit that happens plot and twist wise doesn’t make any fucking sense. The main problem of the movie is this: it didn’t know what it wants to be. Someone in a different review, I believe it was on JoBlo.com pointed out that, while the movie was marketing as a horror/thriller take on an old television show that was the exact opposite, the movie isn’t scary…at all. Then the movie tries to switch gears and genres several times, but never quite fully becomes those genres. It tries to become an action film, but fails miserably at that. It tries to inject some drama into the affair, epic fail. And at one point it even tries to become…a comedy. I’ll let you guess which of the genres it failed the worst at. I’ll give you a hint…I laughed at parts you weren’t supposed to laugh at. Combined with a last minute twist that is so ridiculous that when you look back on scenes beforehand you’d realize it didn’t make any sense, Fantasy Island is a disaster…at Frye Festival like proportions.
If you live under a nostalgic bridge, you should know that Fantasy Island was first a very popular show aired in the late 70s and finished in the early 80s. It starred Kahn errr…Ricardo Montalbahn as Mr. Roake, who, along with his small person sidekick Tattoo, ran an island where literally anything you desired could become true. There was no limits to your imagination. That show, from the few episodes I’ve seen, I was born in 1986, mostly mixed comedy and some drama (a little dash of the supernatural) with a little dash of adventure, and (from what little I saw) mixed those genres really well. The islands visitors fantasies were grand and imaginative, but as you could guess, they wouldn’t go quite as how they pictured things, but then again, it limited itself to comedy, drama, and some adventure. This film, at first, tries to do milk the one untapped resource that the television show never represented: horror. And, pun intended, it does so horribly. Instead of just sticking to horror, the real problem with the movie is that it changes its mind constantly throughout the film what it wants to do with the source material. And it does so because it feels like what they were doing previously wasn’t working. They are correct, and in that case, while they were writing the damn script, they should’ve just given up and threw it in the garbage, knowing not to mess with what came before. That or hire writers that were actually up to the task of bringing something meaning full to the big screen. Nope, they had to endure, and what they thought would be the perfect mixture of all genres you can think of (a la the recent Parasite, seriously, if you haven’t seen Parasite yet you are a moron), ends up being a Frankenstein monster of different pieces that are duct taped to a whole with absolutely no stability whatsoever.
In this incarnation, a bunch of contest winners are flown to the island with dumb cliched fantasies of their own. Lucy Hale wants revenge on a childhood bully, Maggie Q (why the fuck is she in this? she’s better than this) wants a do over on her life by saying yes to a man’s proposal she rejected 5 years before, Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang do the dude bro thing (they are brothers by marriage in this) and just want to “have it all,” and finally Austin Stowell wants to enlist in a war in honor of his late father. There is no Tattoo (yet, I have expected him to be an exact opposite of the Tattoo in the television series and be some tall, lurking muscular monster), but Mr. Roarke is there, played by Michael Pena, the one and only small good part about the movie (his performance). Needless to say, this movie being marketed as a horror/thriller version of the television show many grew up watching, their fantasies turn into nightmares and thus turn into nightmares of the audience actually sitting through the below mediocrity the movie itself represents. And if you think this is just my opinion, you should’ve been at the theater my friend Kim and I, went to. Everybody was laughing at parts that we weren’t meant to laugh at, with groans after it ended yet sighs of relief that we were finally leaving the theater after that torture.
***BEGINNING OF GIANT SPOILER PARAGRAPH** The movie ends up trying to throw one too many dumb twists and turns into the affair to hide the fact that their ultimate villain twist doesn’t really work so well when you think of the scenes that came before that contained him/her (I’ll reveal who it is in a second). The first several twists, other than that the fantasies aren’t what they are cracked up to be) have the film trying to be too much like Inception, where there are fantasies within fantasies, on top of different fantasies that were started before the guests even arrived to the island. It turns out that all these different people share a connection to each other where they all were either there or had to do with one fateful night where an apartment complex caught fire and claimed the life of one of its inhabitants. Can you see where this is going? Well, in case you don’t, those new guests of the island are actually part of a fantasy of someone who arrived there before them, wanting revenge against these people because they all had a part (albeit accidental) in that person’s death (a male) who died in this apartment complex fire. They at first think it is his mother that is exacting her revenge for the death of her son, and that mother is the main female concierge on the island, right hand woman to Mr. Roarke, but it turns out it is just Lucy Hale, all because she didn’t get to go on a first date with a cute guy that had asked her out when nobody would give her the time of day in high school because of her bully. I SHIT YOU NOT. Lucy Hale’s character (by the way, I can’t ever see Lucy Hale as a villain, she’s just so darn effective at being tiny and cute, and that is most of the characters she plays, and the fact that she was nice when I met her in real life) claims she was acting the whole time, but scenes from the beginning of the film, mainly the ones that show her getting ready and reacting to torturing her high school bully, end up making this twist not make one lick of fucking sense. It is never explained on the television show how the island is able to grant these wishes come true, but the movie horribly does. Straight out of what looked like the abandoned third act set of Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, in the middle of the island is a magical rock that water hits it, and then the water is put into the island’s drinks, and the water is able to read your mind and fulfill your fantasy…AGAIN, I SHIT YOU NOT. And for my final what the fuck, it turns out this whole movie is basically a PREQUEL to the television series because Mr. Roarke, at the end of the film, decides that the island won’t be a place for revenge, but for redemption of character and only happy and heartfelt fantasies will take place from then on (this is after Lucy Hale’s character has been thwarted). One of the guests stays behind, Jimmy O. Yang’s character, because the island will fulfill your fantasy forever, as long as you stay on the island, and his brother dies near the end of the film, but his fantasy is for him to be alive and go live his life on the mainland, so Ryan Hansen magically is alive again on the plane heading home with the rest of the survivors. Mr. Roarke wants to give Yang’s character a nickname, so he goes by his brother’s nickname for him, Tattoo, because Yang has a tattoo of the word ‘Tattoo’ on his chest near his left nipple…do I ever need to repeat myself on the I SHIT YOU NOT??? **END OF GIANT SPOILER PARAGRAPH**
The movie doesn’t work on any level. In the end it plays out like a shitty higher budgeted SciFi Network original, but almost bad on the scale of any Sharknado movie you’ve seen. All the more frustrating because the low indie Blumhouse produced this, which has produced great horror films such as Get Out, and while this film is gorgeous to look at (it was actually filmed on Fiji Islands), it’s just so damn awful in its execution I can’t even recommend it on either a “so bad its good” level or if you took it as one big goofy comedy and just laughed at the entire thing type affair. I don’t know who thought to ultimately green light this (probably Jason Blum) but whoever did needs their head examined thoroughly. In the end I should’ve seen all the signs. First, it wasn’t screened for critics, which is a bad thing in its own right, but even with that, there are usually Thursday night late shows if people want to get ahead of the weekend crowds. There were NO Thursday late shows, which just screams cover up. Now it has less than 10% on Rotten Tomatoes…which usually you take that site with a grain of salt, but with this film it is very much warranted. I was actually looking forward to this, because the team that wrote and directed this, also wrote and directed Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, which at the end of the day, the mythology in that movie was so juicy yet bat shit crazy it became a guilty pleasuure, so bad it’s good film for me. I was hoping this would be on the same level, but it isn’t even near the same continent, let alone the same island.