Going forward there will probably be spoilers, most likely, but really we’re saving you from wasting two hours of your life.
Let the fantasy begin.
Fantasy Island is based on a television show from 1977 starring Ricardo Montalban as Roarke. It was also revived briefly in 1998 with Malcolm MacDowall as Roarke. The Island is a place where your fantasies come true…with a twist.
For full disclosure, I’ve never seen the original. I’ve watched the revival but don’t remember much save that Malcolm MacDowall was kind of scary (but then, when isn’t he?) which probably went a fair way to why I thought Roarke was Satan. My dad remembers the original series as being more whimsical.
So I really was able to approach Fantasy Island without the blinders of nostalgia on and give it a fair shot. And it was still very lackluster.
It did pull off one thing nicely, maybe unintentionally but still…When the plane lands and our intrepid Islanders arrive there are two very bro-y step-brothers that seemed like they would be very unlikable. At the end of the movie they were the only two characters everyone liked.
Fantasy Island has an almost two-hour runtime and honestly could have been cut down to an hour and twenty minutes easily just by trimming some of the extraneous scenes. The plot (and I use that term loosely) wanders off quite often and then veers into a twist that literally made no sense. As in, it didn’t make sense from a logical standpoint nor from the rules set up by the movie itself.
Five people get off the plane and they each have their own fantasies. Gwen wants to go back and accept the proposal from the man she loved (she felt she didn’t deserve him). Patrick wants to be a soldier and be a hero like his dad was (after getting assigned a desk after a mistake as a policeman). Melanie wants to torture her high school bully. Brax and J.D. (the bros) want it all. Of course, they take a turn because that’s what the island does. One fantasy per customer, those are the rules.
Gwen is able to work around that rule as what she thinks she wants is to accept the man she loved when he proposed to her. But she realizes that what she really wants is to go back to a fire she set and save the young man who died in it.
In a move that’s a little baffling, the fantasy drops her right into the inferno, not, y’know, before the fire so she could prevent it altogether. In this scene the audience also gets to see that everyone who is on the island was also at the apartment fire. So you know something else is going on.
Melanie is having a disturbingly grand time torturing her tormentor with electric shocks and exposing her infidelity to Sloane’s husband. To her horror she realizes that Sloane is not a hologram like she initially thought but the real, actual Sloane. They escape and run into a guy named Plot Contrivance who lays out how the island works and where its heart is. It’s a pool of water with…I shit you not…black goo. Is that the only effect that Blumhouse knows how to do??? So much for the literal black goo of toxic masculinity. The stuff’s everywhere. Then he saves them by jumping off a cliff with the bad torture doctor they were escaping from.
Brax and J.D. are living it up at a mansion with models (male and female) enough for the both of them. I will give the movie credit here for Brax being a gay character without that being his entire character. So A+ on that, at least. And Brax and J.D. are by far the most interesting and likeable characters in the movie. Their party gets crashed because “when people have it all there’s always someone waiting to take it from them”.
Patrick is quickly captured by his father’s platoon and, seeing how his son has grown up, wants to leave. Which makes Patrick angry that his father would do that instead of saving his unit. Patrick, Brax and J.D.’s fantasies collide when Patrick and his father come to the rescue somehow. Unfortunately, J.D. is shot and killed with horrible special effects. It’s not explained how Patrick and his Dad end up there (or I missed it, that’s entirely possible). And, really, these two stories aren’t given much thought.
Gwen suspects something else is going on and that they’re in someone else’s fantasy. How and why she leaps to that conclusion I have no idea. It just seems to pop up out of nowhere. Chatting with the rest of the guests they all realize they had something to do with Apartment Guy. Gwen started the fire that killed him, J.D. and Brax were roommates with him. They assumed he was on a date so they didn’t think to check to see if he made it out. Patrick was the police officer on duty an would not go in to save him, opting to wait for the fire department. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that protocol? An officer does not have the proper equipment to go charging into a fire. Melanie was supposed to go on a date with him that night. I honestly can’t remember if Sloane had any connection with Apartment Guy or if she’s there because of Melanie’s fantasy. There is hinkiness afoot and one of the Islanders is suspicious! Oh my!
But, since the movie thinks its audience is dumb, it is really, really obvious who it is. Melanie is shown looking longingly at a picture of her and a man. So, yeah, it’s Melanie’s fantasy. She wants revenge because she didn’t get to go on her date with Apartment Guy. They had a really good talk ergo, he was her soulmate and she’s pissed that he’s dead.
This is where the logic of the movie falls apart. One fantasy per person. But Melanie technically gets two. The revenge fantasy on Sloane and revenge on the people she thinks were responsible for Apartment Guy’s death. Also, when she’s torturing what she thinks is Holo-Sloane she speaks out loud to herself and records herself. Why would she if she knew what was going on? There are a lot of little, seemingly insignificant threads that nag until they amount to one big “whaaaat?” of a plot. And not a “whaaat” in a good way.
Also, I’d like to point out the slimy feeling of Melanie becoming emotionally scarred by her high school tormentors and labeled as “that crazy stalker chick” only to actually be that “crazy stalker chick”. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth as though they’re partially justifying her bullying as that opinion is validated by the movie itself.
The movie ends with Gwen realizing that Sloane should get a fantasy so Gwen drinks the water and wishes for Melanie to live with Apartment Guy forever. And in cheap Hollywood Horror fashion, Burnt Apartment Guy lunges out of the water to pull Melanie in with him. Though, again, that’s not exactly how the Island is supposed to work but…whatever.
For being Fantasy Island the island itself is rather bland. Just a basic tropical island with a jungle and pretty blue waters. I was expecting something a bit more special looking. I’m sure Michael Pena is a good actor. And he looked very good in Fantasy Island but the role just didn’t seem to suit him. Roarke in the original series and the revival had personality. It felt like he created the magic, not that he was beholden to the island. I didn’t feel that in this movie. He’s also almost an afterthought, story-wise. His entire backstory is told in one expository chunk in a scene with Gwen. That’s it.
In all, Fantasy Island’s worst sin is boredom and unlikable characters. If I don’t really care what happens to anyone then don’t ask me to sit through two hours of them wandering through a jungle.
Lilyn’s main comment on the movie is that the scene of the models, er, bouncing down the stairs did not last long enough. And Roarke is hot.
Sam had this to say: That was a movie, I liked it okay but also it was dumb and I still do not like Lucy Hale. Ryan Hansen is welcome in my house anytime, he seems like a swell dude.
As you can see, it inspired mostly ambivalent feelings. It was shot cheaply, made quickly and it shows.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.