Blumhouse's Fantasy Island

 

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The year’s silliest, most frantic horror film fails to add up – or to thrill.

   
Fantasy Island

Fear fulfillment: Michael Peña gloats over Maggie Q

 

Be careful what you wish for – it might come true. However, it would be unwise to expect any psychological heft from this deeply silly film, a farce that seems to have no idea what it wants to be. Quick, nurse! Pass the psychiatrist’s couch!

 

Five guests arrive at a tropical paradise, having filled in a one-page questionnaire about their ideal fantasy. They are flown in by seaplane and are greeted with a lei around their necks and cocktails before they have even left the jetty. Strangely, in spite of their journey to the island, they seem to know little about each other. ‘J.D.’ (Ryan Hansen), the American tourist from Hell, complains about the noise of the plane and then high-fives his Asian brother, Brax (Jimmy O. Wang), another day-tripper one would wish to steer clear of. Then there’s the cool, elegant Gwen (Maggie Q), the chirpy, good-time Melanie (Lucy Hale) and the strait-laced, button-down Patrick (Austin Stowell). You could not wish for a more varied bunch.

 

Sadly, expectations of an exotic variation on Bad Times at the El Royale have already been dashed by the standard-issue prologue and meaningless music. Then a stubby, somnolent character in a white suit (Michael Peña) introduces himself as Mr Roarke, an unprepossessing host of one’s dreams and a far cry from Ricardo Montalban. Of course, it was the debonair, enigmatic Montalban who played Mr Roarke in the 1977-1984 TV series from which this abortion has been cut. The accent then was on escapist adventure, here it’s more a case of horror. The certificate card warns of “disturbing images”, but considering the usual fare produced by Blumhouse Productions (The Purge, Insidious, Happy Death Day, etc), it’s not that disturbing, in spite of a torture scene and various shootin’s and stabbin’s.

 

There are some unsuccessful attempts at comedy, but overall the tone is all over the place. The problem rests with the four different fantasies, which have so little grounding in reality that it makes a mockery of its characters. Of course, the clue is in the title – this is a fantasy about an island. But for fantasy to work, the boundaries have to be established from the start, not shoved in whenever the script feels like it. The result is total confusion. At one point, Maggie Q’s Gwen mutters, “how is this possible?” It’s a sentiment the filmmakers might have taken on board.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O. Yang, Portia Doubleday, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker, Mike Vogel, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Robbie Jones, Kim Coates, Charlotte McKinney, Jeriya Benn, Goran D. Kleut, Josh Diaz.

 

Dir Jeff Wadlow, Pro Jason Blum, Marc Toberoff and Jeff Wadlow, Screenplay Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs, Ph Toby Oliver, Pro Des Marc Fisichella, Ed Sean Albertson, Music Bear McCreary, Costumes Lisa Norcia, Dialect coach Danielle Roffe.

 

Columbia Pictures/Blumhouse Productions-Sony Pictures.

108 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 6 March 2020. Cert. 15.