Fantasy Island (2020): Welcome to Overwritten Plot

Blumhouse continues its new line of “creepy version of nostalgic properties.” It’s lame, boss, it’s lame.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Welcome to Fantasy Island, where all your fantasies become real! It’s run by Mr. Roark (Michael Peña) and his personal assistant Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley). Five people arrive on the island, having won a contest: Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), step-brothers J.D. and Brax Weaver (Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang), and Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell). Gwen is there to take her boyfriend Alan’s (Robbie Jones) proposal that she refused five years ago, J.D. and Brax are there to live it up at a high-class party, Patrick enlists in the army to honor his father (Mike Vogel), and Gwen is there to torture her former bully Sloane (Portia Doubleday). However, they soon find that their fantasies are taking a dark turn… Except for Gwen who was there to torture a person, so that is pretty dark to begin with.

FantasyIsland - 1Cast
There’s something really surprising to the right.


This film has 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. I will say that, while this movie isn’t great, I don’t think it’s 7% on RT bad. That’s less than Holmes and Watson and I thought that movie actually gave me brain damage. The problem is that this movie actually could have been really good if they’d just stuck with what seemed like the natural structure for the movie, as opposed to what they ended up with.

FantasyIsland - 2Torture
Also, the dark fantasy of torturing someone for high-school bullying… just why.

The original Fantasy Island show was always about people learning the lesson of “be careful what you wish for,” and usually a specific moral related to the person’s particular fantasy. An episode would typically have 2-3 guests in it who arrive together and then each live out unrelated fantasies, they find out that the fantasies often don’t go the way they expect, and they leave, having learned something. The proprietor, Mr. Roark (Ricardo Montalbon), always seemed to be aware of what was going to happen in the fantasy, giving cryptic warnings, but also saying that he was unable to interfere (though he did once in a while). When I heard that this premise was being adapted into a film, I assumed that it would be a Creepshow-esque anthology, with different fantasies turning into nightmares. When the film started, that still seemed like it would be the case, and that was actually working pretty well. 

FantasyIsland - 3OldSchool
I mean, this just seems like a natural setting for a nightmare.

Unfortunately, the movie decided that, rather than just letting each of the stories wrap up, they start interacting, then end up being part of a larger narrative. While this could have still worked out, the stories really don’t mesh well, and the entire thing feels completely jumbled. Moreover, the larger narrative is extremely stupid and the movie actually takes the time to POINT OUT THAT IT’S STUPID. They try to chalk it up to one character just being nuts, but it feels like a tremendous cop-out. It also feels like they just couldn’t think up full stories for each of the fantasies gone awry and instead decided to just bail out… including bailing on the larger narrative itself. 

FantasyIsland - 4Toast
Cheers, to dropping the ball in Act II.

I think the film really suffers from the terrible third act, because other parts of it were actually working well. I also particularly love Michael Peña’s take on Mr. Roark, because he is much more relatable than Ricardo Montalbon’s “fallen angel” interpretation. This Roark is bound to the island by his own actions and he is forced to cooperate with it. 

FantasyIsland - 5Roark
I’d forgive everything if he did an Ant-Man-style recap of the movie at the end.

Ultimately, I would love to see them give this another try, but I can’t recommend this one. It’s not fun horror, nor is it bad enough to be worth watching as a trainwreck. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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