[Review] Painfully Dull ‘Fantasy Island’ Is an Uninspired Getaway Devoid of Scares

    For seven seasons that ran from 1977-1984, the hugely popular TV series Fantasy Island brought guests to a mysterious resort island to live out their greatest fantasies. Ricardo Montalbán starred as Mr. Roarke, the mysterious and supernatural-leaning overseer of the resort, who would open each episode with a cryptic warning that wishes never turn out how they’re expected before manifesting his guests’ desires. Often, there was peril, and sometimes even death. Fantasies could easily become nightmares. In other words, it’s a setup ripe for a straightforward horror feature adaptation. Unfortunately, Blumhouse’s latest doesn’t offer much in the way of exciting thrills or even horror.

    After a bland cold open that sees a terrified, battered woman running for her life from masked assailants on the eponymous resort island, we’re introduced to the core five that think they’ve won a contest that earns them a free stay on Fantasy Island. Mr. Roarke, now played by Michael Peña, his trusty new assistant Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley), and the creepy staff receive brothers Brad (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang), Elena (Maggie Q), Randall (Austin Stowell), and Melanie (Lucy Hale). The guests are plied with drinks and warm welcomes, just before being whisked off to their fantasies. There are only two rules: only one fantasy per guest, and the fantasy must be followed to its natural conclusion.

    The four fantasies that play out are all of the insipid, uninspired variety. Deep desires for revenge on childhood bullies, righting a fateful decision that created regret, a luxurious lifestyle, and one last chance to reconnect with a lost loved one all make for typical wish-fulfillment we’ve seen many times before. None of these stories attempt to veer off course and try something new. Worse, there’s zero stakes or tension. Just a by-the-numbers “be careful what you wish for” with vague, ominous underpinnings — emphasis on vague. We never really care about these characters, and we especially don’t care for their tired fantasies.

    Eventually, the four central fantasies do dovetail into one cohesive story. Still, the not-so-subtly foreshadowed hints mean you know full well how it’ll end long before it reaches the climax of an overlong runtime just ten minutes shy of two hours. What’s worse is that when the third act finally arrives, the characters unite only to devolve into the most shallow and infuriating horror clichés. It’s only in this final act that director Jeff Wadlow (Truth or DareCry Wolf) seems to even remember this should be a horror film at all. Mostly it plays as an ineffective character study of guilt that’s tediously empty until an absurdly overstuffed climax.

    It’s hard to know who this new take on the ‘70s TV classic is for; sly Easter eggs, lines of dialogue, and one laughably bad parting moment all pay overt homage to the series, but everything in between feels aimed toward a very young audience. With zero stakes and way too much emphasis on drama, the horror is a bare afterthought. Meaning, there’s not enough horror to appease even a budding horror fan, and what little exists is contrived and superficial.

    Fantasy Island is the most boring tropical getaway you could take. It takes nearly an hour for the characters to understand that they’re finally getting their greatest wishes fulfilled, then there’s almost an hour more of falling into every single dumb horror pitfall possible. And yet, despite the excruciating length dedicated to characters behaving irrationally, the plot is stretched way too thin. It’s predictable, oh so dull, and downright groan-worthy. Especially the final act. The level of cheesiness will have your eyes rolling out of their skull.

    Unless you’re looking to break up, don’t bring your Valentine’s date to Fantasy Island.

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