FANTASY ISLAND (2020) is Jumanji mixed with Saw V… and that’s nothing special

A 70’s TV show gets a dark remake with Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, a story of five strangers who win the chance to live out their wildest fantasies on a luxurious island, only to soon realise that those fantasies are actually nightmares.

If I could sum up this movie; it’s like someone watched a few episodes of the original show followed by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), then followed by Saw V (2008), and wondered what would happen if they merged them all together. Is it dumb? Yeah. Does it all make sense? No. But, is it fun? For the most part, yeah. I really wasn’t expecting much going into this film. It’s a creative concept, sure, but I didn’t see it being anything more than a run-of-the-mill horror thriller. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the first two acts of this movie. It’s nothing special and it does follow the path you’d expect it to follow, but it’s a fun, easy watch that I was enjoying.

The first two acts are more of a thriller sort of vibe with little hints of horror sprinkled in here and there. I thought this balance really worked as there was a little bit of adventure, a little bit of fun and a good amount of thrills to keep the tension. I was hooked into the story and wanted to see how things would turn out for all of the characters. Some of the editing and structure of the story here and there feels a bit off. Like, at some times it will focus on another character for a short two minute scene that adds nothing before cutting away again. It’s a minor quarrel but it does impact the pacing a little.

The biggest issue I have with the film is the third act, which is a mess and goes in too much of a different direction in contrast to the rest of the film. It goes from a thriller with some horror here and there to trying to be a full on horror and it loses any tension that it once had. It’s also like the filmmakers just wanted to wrap things up as this final act starts and ends before you even have a chance to blink. They even try to flip some things in the story in these final moments but it doesn’t work. It makes the whole film feel a little more ridiculous and makes earlier moments not make sense. It’s just one of those things where the more you think about it, the more it won’t make sense, so it’s better to just let it go.

Fantasy Island brings back the director-actor duo of Jeff Wadlow and Lucy Hale from Truth or Dare (2018), and I don’t dislike this pairing. It seems like they work well together and Lucy is good in this film. I think all of the actors in here, from Michael Peña and Maggie Q to Lucy Hale and Portia Doubleday are all good in their respective roles. The dialogue may not be the strongest and the character backstories are thinly strung but when you have this sort of talent involved, it all just works. The ensemble carries the film well enough, even Jimmy O Yang and Ryan Hansen have their moments despite being the two who I thought I’d get sick of really quick.

Michael Rooker has a role in the film, however, I feel like he was completely wasted as a character and as a great performer. He’s set up as someone who will have some sort of key role in the film but that never really comes to fruition. That just adds to the rest of the story decisions from the third act that aren’t really executed as well as they could have been. It all ends on a sour note, which is a shame because it was looking like it would be a decent thriller.

In the end, Fantasy Island tries to do something different by rebooting an old TV show with a touch of horror, but it drops the ball when it tries to do too much in its final act. When it adopts more of a thriller vibe, it’s an enjoyable ride. For the first two acts it feels like a slightly darker version of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and it works. Then it throws in a bunch of horror elements and sprints to the finish, making for a mess of a third act that almost makes the journey not worth it. I feel like, under Blumhouse, this could have been a strong horror/thriller, but it drops the ball and ends up being just average, overall.


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