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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Review: Fantasy Island

Director: Jeff Wadlow
Screenplay: Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach, and Jeff Wadlow
Year: 2020

The effort to revive franchises that have been long dead has been constant in horror cinema history, reason while there are so many questionable sequels and remakes in some of these sagas. However, reviving franchises outside of the horror genre and bringing it into the genre seems to be a recent trend with movies such as “The Banana Splits Movie” and “Gretel and Hansel” as recent examples. Like what happened with “The Banana Splits Movie”, “Fantasy Island” raises the question about the potential that this trend might have.

In “Fantasy Island”, a group of winners from a contest is taken into Fantasy Island, a place where fantasies come true. Each person is granted the right to live their own fantasy with the disclaimer that they must live it until its natural conclusion. While they’re on the island they discover that their fantasies are tergiversated and they don’t happen as desired, but rather take an evil turn.

The premise of “Fantasy Island” is very interesting: an island that can make your fantasies come true but that always finds a way to turn them dark. Then, where did this movie lose its way? Although there are several culprits, the main reason is the script of Jillian Jacobs (“Truth or Dare”), Christopher Roach (“WWE Raw”) and also director Jeff Wadlow (“Kick-Ass 2”). Three people worked on this script and still, they failed in creating interesting characters and in giving some sense to the decisions they make.

The concept of seeing someone’s fantasy supposes going deep into their emotions; an emotional nudity that leads the viewer to understand and sympathize with the characters. “Fantasy Island” wastes this opportunity and offers a group of stereotypical characters with frivolous and unrealistic motivations as their fantasies and interpretations that do little to try and save them, starring Lucy Hale (“Scream 4”), Maggie Q (“Divergent”), and Michael Peña (“American Hustle”). Only Maggie Q has a character whose motivation is coherent and that manages to connect with the viewer.

Coming from a production company Blumhouse (“Get Out”) that has us used to bring exciting movies inside the horror genre, it was expected that they would push the boundaries of the PG-13 classification. However, the contrary is done and stays in a conservative zone, where horror elements are almost non-existent and those that exist are not well used and where most violent scenes take place outside of the screen. More than a Blumhouse movie made for theaters, it feels like a version edited for TV, with lots of tension but little horror.

"Fantasy Island" brings an extremely interesting concept executed with the skills of people that only care about making money out of a dead franchise instead of making a good horror movie. As a strategy, they use the name of the production company as a way of promotion to attract more people probably knowing the box office flop that it would be. It offers plenty of suspense but very little horror and tries to save it with an unexpected ending that matches the nonsense of its plot.

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