I have a pet peeve with Youtube. When I’m up late at night listening to calming music, I often find myself assaulted with a mandatory ad for an upcoming horror flick. It ruins my whole bedtime routine because I then have to watch a Disney movie to rid myself of the heebie-jeebies. I know it’s pathetic, but I can’t even handle scary movie trailers during the daytime, and I cover my eyes when they come on during previews at the theater. So, thank goodness for Fantasy Island: its existence feels like comeuppance for every time my Frozen sing-a-longs have been interrupted by screechy violins, panicked screams, and creepy voices. Based on a popular 70’s TV show of the same name, the movie Fantasy Island comes with a horror twist on the show’s theme: be careful what you wish for.
The premise is that the titular island manifests for its visitors the deepest wishes of their heart; but gradually, their fantasies twist and degrade into lethal nightmares. It seems the island had the same effect on the producers of this film, as their fantasy project of recreating an intriguing concept eroded into the disappointing final product that I saw in theaters over the weekend. Everything the movie had going for it went bad like week-old pizza—uncompelling characters (despite being portrayed by seasoned, talented actors), eyeroll-inducing dialogue, and a total lack of fear or danger felt by the audience (remember, this is coming from a total wimp). If Hallmark made a horror film, this is what it would look like.
The perfect description of this movie lies in one of its characters—Dr. Torture. A giant with bulging, veiny muscles (imagine Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove, but bent on murder and wearing scrubs); he avoids asserting his size, and instead chooses tiny, surgical tools to intimidate the protagonists. He spends most of his screen-time jabbing a 1-inch blade at people or waving a bone saw with the diameter of a Girl Scout cookie. He could probably kill you with his bare hands, but instead he goes about attempting to murder the protagonists in such inconvenient ways that it almost feels like a spoof. Likewise, the movie itself felt full of untapped potential, yet clumsy and confusing in its execution.
What can be said for Fantasy Island, however, is that it was entirely unpredictable. I kept thinking I had it figured out, and every time I was proved wrong. I found myself leaning closer and closer to the screen, brows furrowed and resting my chin on my hands, as if those extra movements would somehow help me solve the mystery. I was surprisingly invested in the wild roller coaster, even if it all seemed to have no rhyme or reason. By the end, it still lacked rhyme or reason, and even though I found the cinematic journey entertaining, I would skip this one and go see one of the many other horror flicks available this month.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you share my YouTube pet peeve), the horror genre has survived worse and will no doubt survive this, too. I fully expect the next venture by Blumhouse Productions to be bone-chilling and terrifying. But for now, Fantasy Island has me sleeping easy.
Recommendation: NO GO