Fantasy Island (2020), a vapid and underwhelming cashgrab reboot.

I remember going to the cinema (what a distant memory that feels now) and seeing trailers for Blumhouse’s latest film, Truth or Dare, even at the time I remember thinking that it was the kind of film I’d see if I had a free evening and the tickets were cheap. Well the tickets were never cheap enough to interest me so I didn’t see it. Fast forward to a global pandemic and here I am with a pretty lacklustre list of 2020 films under my belt, so now during lockdown I was looking at what was accessible to me to fill out my watches and I decided to give Fantasy Island a go. Serving as a reimagining, and prequel(?), to a 1977 television series of the same name, Fantasy Island takes place on a tropical resort where all of the guests fantasies come true. Adapting an old television series with a horror twist isn’t an idea that I’m inherently against whatsoever, in fact I think there could be some really brilliant films made through this formula. Saying that, if they’re helmed by the same people who made Fantasy Island, I’d beg them to stop. 

The film focuses around a group of prizewinners who are invited to the titular ‘Fantasy Island’ under the promise that all of their fantasies will come true, we’re introduced to the characters in a cringe-inducing opening sequence where the characters arrive at the island and mingle in the lobby. I truly cannot understate how terrible this dialogue is, the scariest thing about this film is that no-one in the filmmaking process ever stepped in to say how poor it really was. In between terrible jokes, Lucy Hale’s character, Melanie, awkwardly coming onto Austin Stowell’s character, Patrick, for literally no narrative reason other than to put the sexual comments/innuendo into the film, or those awful “look we’re up to date with culture” comments made almost exclusively by the Weaver brothers, played by Jimmy O. Yang & Ryan Hanson. The film often continues this trend of dialogue and jokes that would only appeal to a 13-year old. Continuing on the trend of appealing to teenagers, when we’re introduced to the first fantasy of the film, it’s a massive house party with plenty of scantily clad women, the film then attempts to subvert it’s groan-inducing male fantasy vision by pointing out that Jimmy O. Yang’s character is a homosexual, but of course this just means that his fantasy is topless muscely men and he attempts to fight the insinuation by saying “do they really think that’s my only fantasy”, but of course there’s no real nuance, it;s just that his other fantasy is an abundance of weed alongside his topless, muscular men. Now you may be thinking, oh but at least there’s good representation of the LGBT+ community, that’s surely a plus? You know what is immediately dropped after this one scene? Any conversation about his sexuality, we see his brother surrounded by a harem of women in bikinis, while Yang’s character sits and smokes weed. It’s the most vapid and superficial attempt at inclusion that is flashed on the screen before being ignored for the rest of the film. Even the idea of Yang’s character being kicked out of the family home because of his sexuality is only brought up in relation to his brother’s dependence on their friendship and his own commitment issues. And in a similar vein, there’s an unnecessary amount of objectification going on in this film, lingering shots on bikini-clad women feel completely gratuitous, even to the extent where Maggie Q’s character is mid-changing clothes in one scene before exploring the ominous noise she heard, and this seems like a really poor and pathetic reason to just have her showing more skin in this scene. 

The film ends up branching off into different plots as it follows all of the islanders and it’s here especially that the cracks start to show as the film bites off more than it can chew. Each different character spawns their own genre within their plot, there’s action, thriller, Saw-esque torture horror, mystery and adventure. While this could be an ambitious feat, switching up the editing styles, cinematography and overall tone of each branching plot, the narrative changes tone of each scene but nothing about the technical side of the film to highlight the shifting mood of the film, which for me is a real missed opportunity. There are slight differences, like in the action scenes you get some standard quick-cuts to make the gun-fights more punchy, but it doesn’t feel substantial as you watch it. Even aside from this the technical side feels very plain, cinematography is nothing special, the music is decidedly forgettable and does the typical ramping up during the tense moments, Jeff Wadlow’s directing isn’t particularly bad but it also doesn’t feel remotely refined in any way and there’s no sense of style present.  

I went into this film with little to no-expectations, but it feels so lifeless. It doesn’t feel like a film made with love and care for the craft, it feels like a soulless reboot of an IP that was probably purchased for cheap and converted into a cash grab. Hidden somewhere there are some good ideas, but in practise they all fall flat. The climactic reveal feels so baffingly stupid, character twists aren’t necessarily expected but always feel unearned. As the title of this review may give away, the film is just incredibly boring, you’d think the premise would be so easy to make something even remotely entertaining but between me laughing at how stupid the script was, the film just plods along without ever keeping my interest. 

Also Michael Rooker is in this but he does so little I couldn’t find a single way to talk about his role in the film aside from this little addendum.

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