fantasy island | jeff wadlow | jillian jacobs | christopher roach | michael pena | maggie q | lucy hale | slasher | adventure | comedy | mystery | united states | austin stowell | jimmy o. yang | portia doubleday | ryan hansen | michael rooker | blumhouse
Film: Fantasy Island
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer: Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach and Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Michael Peña, Maggie Q and Lucy Hale
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, I only went to see this film for my year end list and for my podcast. The last couple years I’ve tried to make sure I hit all of the ‘major’ releases in the theater to support the genre. I didn’t have the highest hopes for this one, but I wasn’t coming in to hate it either. I tried to come in expecting something similar to Happy Death Day, which I know was pretty polarizing, but I still thought that one was fun. The synopsis here is a horror adaptation of the popular ‘70s TV show about a magical island resort.
Something I have to give credit for is that this movie doesn’t waste any time getting into it. We start with seeing Sloane Maddison (Portia Doubleday) trying to escape from people that are pursuing her through woods. She emerges from them and we see she’s on an island. She goes into the main house and the phone rings. She answers it to hear a man’s voice before she’s taken.
We then have a seaplane arrive at this island. Disembarking from it are Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell), Brax Weaver (Jimmy O. Yang) and his brother J.D. (Ryan Hansen). They’re met by Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley) among other staff as they’re led to the main building. Each is taken to their own room, except Brax and J.D. We then meet their host, Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña). He informs them that they’ll all get their fantasy. The rules are that they only get one and that they need to allow it to play to its natural completion. Brax and J.D. are the only ones not taken to a room as their fantasy is starting now which is a wild party.
The following morning Gwen meets with Mr. Roarke who inquires more about what her fantasy is. It ends up being to fix the biggest regret of her life as she doesn’t feel she deserves happiness. This means going to the date where Allen Chambers (Robbie Jones) proposed and she turned him down. Melanie’s is to punish a childhood bully who made her life a living hell. It turns out that her bully was Sloane and it goes darker than Melanie is ready to go. Patrick’s fantasy is to be a soldier, as he wasn’t allowed growing up. What he gets isn’t necessarily what he’s expecting when he comes face to face with Lieutenant Sullivan (Mike Vogel).
All the while, we’re seeing a specter that is disfigured as well as a wild looking man named Damon (Michael Rooker). The reason they’re all there might not be what they were expecting and they all share something in common as it becomes a fight for survival from cartel members, soldiers and a monstrous man named Dr. Torture (Ian Roberts). There’s also a secret within the island of how these fantasies are possible.
Unlike many of my cohorts in the horror community, I don’t despise PG-13 horror films. Not all of them need to ramp up the blood and gore to be effective. An example for me is Happy Death Day which does feel more like a comedy with slasher elements. I didn’t think other movie was great, but it was fun. This one here is really taking slasher elements again, but mixing in adventure, fantasy and mystery. If you’re not going to go hard R with the blood and kills, you really do need these secondary elements to work.
To start with what I liked, there’s a mystery and story underneath everything that is happening on the island. This connects all of the characters and I liked it. I will admit, I was starting to get bored until that plot really surfaced. That’s where it caught my interest. Shifting slightly to a negative, there’s really only one of these initial fantasies that are horror, being that Melanie is torturing her bully and a dark manifestation of a doctor that she dealt with as a child who she called Dr. Torture. The other fantasies do take this turn though as it progresses.
The major issue I had though would be the pacing. This movie runs 109 minutes and I think that’s too long. What makes it wild though is that as it doesn’t take long to get into it. We get to see the fantasies of all of the characters before they start to play out in ways they weren’t expecting. The problem becomes it takes too long to get into what’s brought them together and the truth. I lost interest and didn’t really find things all that interesting in the second act until it all collides. It does pull me back though and I thought the ending was fine. It has a nice little nod to the original show, but I’ve never seen that so I had to look it up to understand. This is slightly problematic as this is directed toward a younger audience. I don’t know if you’re get to get a lot of people in the cinema or to see this that enjoyed the original show or its remake so it could be lost on them. You’re also not going to get my age group or younger to use this as a reason to watch the shows either.
What I will give credit here to is the actors and their performances. I’m a fan of Peña and thought he was fine for this role. He does play it cryptic which makes sense for the island he works at and what he’s doing to progress the story. Maggie Q feels like the most accomplished aside from him and that would make her the other star. The problem with having four main characters though is that they do disappear for stretches. She’s brooding with her past and it works. I was actually really impressed with Hale here. She’s quite forward to start out with, which is different from her role in Truth or Dare. There’s more to her as we learn more about her past. I thought Stowell was fine along with Doubleday, Yang and Hansen. I did like the cameos by Rooker, Vogel, Kim Coates, Roberts, Jones and Goran D. Kleut as well.
That will take me to the effects here. To be honest, they’re a bit light. We do get some CGI, but they actually don’t go all that heavy. It’s usually used to make someone’s eyes go dark, some smoke as well as having people disappear before they’re seen. This of course being hallucinations so I’m willing to allow that. So overall this is not a big deal and doesn’t really affect anything where I was bothered. Being this is a PG-13 film, it’s lighter on blood as well. They do have some guns here, so they can avoid things there. I would say that the cinematography is fine overall.
Now with that said, I never try to come into a movie to hate it before I’ve seen it. This does do some good things for sure. I like the underlying mystery of the movie. I think the reveal of the truth is good and incorporating a bit of supernatural elements as well. The acting is solid across the board and I don’t really think any issues with the effects. This does run a bit long which caused me to lose interest a bit. The soundtrack really didn’t stand out, but it also didn’t hurt my opinion either. If you like these Blumhouse type films, give it a viewing. It’s not bad and would say that my rating here is just slightly over average.
My Rating: 6 out of 10