Fantasy Island (2020) Review

At one point in the movie, one of the characters stated “Fantasy f***ing island” after experiencing all the things that happened in the titular mysterious island. It’s a statement that I have to agree upon: a f***ed-up island of a so-called horror version adapted from the old ABC series, which ran between the mid-70s till early 80s.

Other than knowing the existence of the title and the fact it was starred the late Ricardo Montalbán of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan fame, I’ve never seen a single episode prior to the release of the big-screen version. The plot basically goes like this: Five contestants — Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell) and stepbrothers J.D. and Brax Weaver (Ryan Hansen, Jimmy O. Yang) — are all selected to a remote tropical resort simply known as Fantasy Island. The island, which oversees by the mysterious Mr Roarke (Michael Pena, stepping in the shoes of Montalbán’s iconic TV role), becomes their host of sorts and also in charge of making their respective fantasies come true. Soon, they discover what should have been harmless fantasies turn out to be something else entirely.

Judging by the movie itself, Fantasy Island is a colossal failure on all counts. As a horror movie, it can only muster some cheap jump scares that is neither creepy nor terrifying (what’s with the unscary zombies who shed black tears as if they ruin their heavily-applied eyeshadows?). And for some reasons, the movie also wanted to blend in with a psychological thriller and action-film tropes (!) — a genre mishmash that could have worked if director Jeff Wadlow knew what to do with them.

Unfortunately, his same old pedestrian direction rears its ugly head yet again (his 2018’s equally limp directorial effort in Truth or Dare quickly comes to mind) in Fantasy Island. Just about everything in the movie falls flat with stock characters and limp storyline. The latter even stumbles from the get-go, as Wadlow committing among the biggest sins by going straight to the main point without establishing the background of the characters and the fantastical setup itself. It’s like as if he wants us to accept the movie as it is, no matter how convoluted it turns out to be.

Then comes the nonsensical twist towards the end — a last-minute attempt to salvage the movie from being a total disaster. But the twist — you just have to see it for yourself —  only made things worse than it already has.

The only positive thing I can say about Fantasy Island is the stunning Taveuni island location shot in Fiji.