As a movie critic (admittedly a semi-professional, less-than-part-time one), I feel at least a mild obligation to stick with a movie until the credits roll. Even recent dreck like Cats, Serenity, and Dolittle had a redeeming factor or two (and if not, I harbored a tiny, warped sense of curiosity about whether the ridiculousness could sustain itself for a full two hours).
Not so with Fantasy Island, the latest Blumhouse production, which bills itself as a horror movie but instead is nothing short of horrific. An unmitigated mess from start to finish, Fantasy Island fails on every single front (script, direction, acting, story) with no redeeming anything and no sense whatsoever that it has even the smallest inkling of what kind of movie it’s trying to be. (And therefore does all of them poorly.)
Based on the classic TV show, which I’ll wager means absolutely nothing to anyone born after 1980, the movie keeps the same basic premise. People come to a mystical island via “The plane! The plane!” and are granted fantasies with the caveat that the scenarios must be played out to their inevitable conclusion. It’s a classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for setup and is lorded over by ringleader Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña), who is appropriately evasive when people ask what’s going on or why it’s happening. This, of course, means the audience is kept in the dark, too, which only adds to the frustration.
The five “victims” (we’re told early on that they won a contest) include a seemingly unrelated gaggle of pretty people whose disparate desires propel the movie forward with a halting sputter. The life’s mission of Melanie (Lucy Hale) is to get revenge on the girl who made her high school years a living hell. Gwen (Maggie Q) wishes she could go back five years and say “yes” to the one that got away. High-fiving bros J.D. (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) want nothing more than to live the hedonistic good life, and police officer Patrick (Austin Stowell) wishes he could have enlisted in the army like his heroic late father.
Over the course of the film’s 109 (!) minutes, we jump back and forth between the fantasies in neck-snapping fashion, as the movie shifts from the look and feel of a bland Saw entry to a sappy Lifetime time-travel drama to MTV Spring Break circa-1995 to a cut-rate Platoon rip-off… all of which, naturally, makes Fantasy Island feel like four horrendously crappy movies in one.
Director Jeff Wadlow, who helmed 2018’s Truth or Dare and also the repulsive and ridiculously stupid Kick-Ass 2 in 2013, does everything he can to make sure there will not be a worse movie this year then Fantasy Island. His script (which he co-wrote with Truth or Dare’s Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs) offers up nothing in the way of suspense—there’s not even so much as a jump scare to be found—much less the slightest evidence of a cohesive plot.
This is one fantasy no one could possibly want any part of… except to teach a very simple lesson—the best way to cure the desire to walk out of a movie is to just avoid it altogether.