HomeMovies'Fantasy Island' Review: A Disappointing, Dull Blunder from Blumhouse

‘Fantasy Island’ Review: A Disappointing, Dull Blunder from Blumhouse

Fantasy Island
Photo Credit: Christopher Moss

Writer/director Jeff Wadlow has had an interesting run as director – in that he hasn’t had a film yet that has resonated with critics. Although his sophomore effort, Never Back Down, is a film that I look back at fondly and the post-Taken Liam Neeson actioneer Non-Stop is probably is most well-liked film, most of his filmography is far from well-received.

However, Wadlow’s recent work with Blumhouse has put him in a seemingly better position – especially since Blumhouse wants to put their name in front of his films. In 2018, Wadlow directed Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, a film lambasted by critics but was a huge financial success — grossing over $90 million on $3 million budget. 

Now, Wadlow returns to direct Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, a horror adaptation of the classic ABC fantasy drama series of the same name. The trailers looked promising at it had some interesting scares, and we get glimpses of wishes gone wrong. The film also has a solid cast with Lucy Hale re-teaming with her Truth or Dare director. It seemed like the cards were in Wadlow’s favor for delivering a film worthy of a strong reception, however, that too was just a fantasy. 

The film, like the series, follows a group of people journeying to a place only known as Fantasy Island, a tropical resort owned by the mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena), where people’s fantasies are brought to life. Each person has with a unique fantasy that allows to change aspects in their life. However, their fantasies must be fulfilled to their natural ending – no matter the cost. So, when their fantasies take dark and unexpected turns, the group must figure the mystery behind the island’s power and how their stories are all connected. 

Where Truth or Dare had a simple concept, solid horror fun, and the characters with stakes, Fantasy Island is the total opposite. The script is a total mess. It constantly throws new information, and twists at viewers at such a rapid pace that they usually don’t stick. Phrases like “The island the KNOWS all” and “All fantasies MUST see their fantasies to their natural conclusions” are constantly thrown around. However, the film never commits to the rules it establishes and deviates from them in unsatisfying ways. For example. Gwen’s (Maggie Q) fantasy being “misinterpreted” by the island and Roarke, to the twist connection that explains why they are all on the island together. The twists and turns come off like excuses for the film continuing and to forcibly make you think the film is successfully building towards a satisfying ending. 

The characters are even more unsatisfying. Their personalities basically stem from the kind of people you would hate going on vacation with. While first impressions certainly aren’t everything, the first impressions here are absolute trash and I don’t know if I’ve ever been so disinterested by characters as instantly as here. Melanie (Hale) is a total buzzkill right from her first couple of lines. High-fiving step-bros J.D. (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) act like your typical annoying frat bros. Patrick (Austin Stowell) and Gwen (Maggie Q) come off as boring – which is unfortunate because their fantasies are probably the most interesting.

There’re rarely moments that make the audience care or have concern for anyone on-screen. The performances rarely give any sort of energy to the characters. Everyone pretty much looks uninvested into the story they’re a part of, especially Pena who gives one of the most unenthusiastic performances of his career. Not to mention, the final twist involving Melanie’s fantasy completely tanks any shred of likability and ruins all of the progress and growth made between her and her childhood bully Sloane (Portia Doubleday).

Now, Fantasy Island isn’t a total loss as it does present some interesting story moments that are kind of cool – in the moment. Patrick and Gwen’s fantasies are the most interesting because of the personal connection they have to them. Gwen’s initial fantasy to change a bad decision she made in severing a romantic relationship leads to some interesting personal dilemmas about fantasies that the film should’ve leaned into more. The way that she seamlessly steps into her past is actually kind of creepy and the issues she has in rewriting her past and living a life with people she has no memories of is really interesting.

The same can be said for Patrick as he relives moments with his father who died on the battlefield. The two have different opinions on the circumstances of Patrick’s father heroism performed which changed both of their lives. It’s an interesting conflict that makes you  care about the outcome. Even Brax’s decision at the end of the film is kind of touching which also leads to a great nod to the TV series. I’ll even say that the scene showing the big connection to everyone being on the island together is solidly done and intriguing in the moment. 

However, all the interesting moments are undercut by how the story is told and the pacing is a total drag. Even though that “big connection” reveal is interesting, the film just shows it and then switches to something else for way too long. You’re just left hanging on this big plot point without any satisfying resolution. When it does return, you almost forget that it even happened. The constant switching of storylines hinders  character growth and you nearly forget that certain characters are even in the movie at all.

Worst of all, the film’s tone is incredibly dull. It’s lack of energy doesn’t live up to being a horror re-imaging of the vintage series. It’s completely devoid of scares, and lacks any sort of imaginative visuals to create uniquely creepy imagery. Even without any strong elements of horror, the clichés from the genre still appear — characters make totally irrational decisions, and set-ups for scares being all too familiar. Literally, the way characters split up in the final act is totally baffling and there’s nothing to do but facepalm at the dumbness that’s happening on-screen. 

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island is nothing more than another blunder for the horror house and Wadlow. Perhaps, Blumhouse could take Fantasy Island and take it back to it TV roots like it did with The Purge franchise adding in more Twilight Zone elements of mystery and characters that are more likable and easier to connect to. For now, though, that’s just going to have to remain a fantasy and I’m going to have to hope that upcoming films like The Invisible Man and The Hunt have better things to offer. 

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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