Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Premise: An adaptation of the television series. A group of strangers are invited to a resort on a mysterious island. The resort’s proprietor (Michael Peña) promises to bring each guest’s ultimate fantasy to life but things don’t quite work out as expected.
What Works: The Fantasy Island television show was a campy adventure series popular in the late 1970s and early 80s. This adaptation was produced by Blumhouse, a prolific production company specializing in horror films, and if nothing else 2020’s Fantasy Island has a new approach to the material.
What Doesn’t: Fantasy Island suffers from a number of mounting problems. The film begins with the guests arriving on the island and each of them is quickly sent into their unique adventure. The scenarios are generic. Two brothers enjoy a raucous party while a woman relives the marriage proposal she regretfully rejected. A man experiences front line military service while another guest lives out a torture fantasy of her high school bully. For a movie about characters experiencing their innermost wants, this is all very bland. There’s not much imagination to any of these fantasies and there’s very little invested in fulfilling them. And when the fantasies inevitably go sideways nothing is revealed about these characters and their desires. There is no ironic fulfillment of their wishes and this supposedly dark approach to Fantasy Island squanders opportunities to capitalize on the horror of desire turned inside out. The theatrical version of Fantasy Island was rated PG-13; there is an unrated cut but even that is relatively tame. Fantasy Island’s milquetoast flavor is exemplified by its filmmaking craft. The film is lit and shot like a television show but not in a way that makes it an homage to the source material; it just looks cheap and flat. The story, such as it is, comes across as though it was made up as the filmmakers went along. Supporting characters show up out of nowhere and are dispatched just as quickly. The film’s internal logic is inconsistent. The reality of the fantasies switches from moment to moment and the plot is a patchwork of ill-conceived surprises. Fantasy Island fully goes off the rails in the climax. The apparently unrelated guests are revealed to be part of a grand design but this plot twist unravels the whole movie, punching new logical holes in what is already a stupid mess.
DVD extras: The blu-ray edition includes the theatrical cut and an unrated version as well as a commentary track, deleted scenes, and previews.
Bottom Line: 2020’s Fantasy Island is a stupid and unimaginative take on the cult television series. The filmmakers don’t commit to the darker approach and the result is a bland fantasy adventure that doesn’t make any sense.
Episode: #811 (August 2, 2020)