Fans of classic TV shows will recognise Fantasy Island as the 1977 show the follows the accounts of visitors at a unique resort island that can fulfil any fantasy requested, but rarely turn out as expected. It had a very H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau vibe, and The Simpsons fans will recognise the Treehouse of Horror special where guests were turned into animals ala H.G. Wells’ novel by the white clad Dr. Hibbert.
There’s a lot in the backstory that surrounds the pop culture of Fantasy Island, but this 70’s TV show was more of an action/adventure/fantasy show rather than a horror. So when deciding to reboot the show into a movie like everyone in Hollywood seems to be doing nowadays, horror movie giant Blumhouse decided to go a different way and make the movie a horror.
And thank god they did, because 2020’s Fantasy Island movie is the classic horror reboot we had no idea that we needed!
And just before i go any further, this review has some spoilers.
This new movie that missed out on the cinematic rounds due to COVID-19 follows both the classic horror trope, and the Fantasy Island theme with subtile perfection. Each of the guests arriving at the island to partake in their ultimate fantasies fit in to each one of the horror character trope; Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale plays the bad girl Melanie who wants revenge on her high school bully and while she isn’t as slutty as say Paris Hilton in House of Wax she clearly fits into the trope of ‘The Whore’. The graceful and pleasant Gwen (played by a stunning Maggie Q) wants a do-over with the love of her life, playing into the part of ‘The Virgin’ despite seeing her naked in bed with her lover. Her intentions are pure, and as Signorey Weaver said in Cabin in the Woods, “we make do with what we have”.
The police officer character Patrick Sullivan (played by Austin Stowell) is your typical grunt “Jock” archetype, looking to try his hand at the military to appease his deceased father, and comedic relief characters Brax Weaver and J.D. Weaver (played by Jimmy O’Yang and Ryan Hansen respectively) are the clear “Fools”, simply only looking to party, hook up and get high. They all fit so perfectly into the trope, but their storylines also add to the movie’s perfection, all of them being connected by a mysterious boy named Nick who died in a fire in an apartment building.
As their fantasies begin to warp into horrific nightmares, they soon discover themselves mixed into each others fantasies as their worlds collide. As they realise their connections to each other, they also discover that this whole experience isn’t about them – it’s a twisted revenge fantasy that comes as such a perfect twist, you literally can’t pick it until two minutes before the reveals as they set up for it. Getting a twist in without obvious prior notice? Now THAT’s perfection in a movie.
And while the characters and the storyline fit together into a perfect take of a classic horror trope, the Fantasy Island parts that are mixed in create a very wonderful callback to the original TV show. Michael Pena, who you would recognise joyfully from Ant-Man, is the absolute embodiment of Mr. Roarke, and the quick little addition of making the character of Brax Weaver the ending result of Tattoo (the little assistant in the original TV series) provides the callback that is absolutely needed.
Overall, I was EXTREMELY impressed with Fantasy Island. Not quite a reboot, not quite a remake, it fit perfectly as a horror and as a callback and seems to be the underdog that more people need to be rooting for.