Putting a clever spin on a familiar property isn’t exactly new territory, but if you’re going to try and tweak a formula audiences know, it better be worth the trip. Blumhouse did that as recently as last week with Leigh Whannel’s take on The Invisible Man, but it seems going for a double knockout was really too much to ask in the case of Fantasy Island.
So proud of it, they put their name on it, Blumhouse’s iteration of the familiar getaway where marvellous things can happen sees director Jeff Wadlow as our tour guide and Michael Pena taking the iconic role of Mr Roarke, originally played by Ricardo Montalbán. Head of the island that possesses magical qualities, Roarke invites his new group of guests that all want their dreams realised. One is hoping to ‘go Call of Duty’ in an army-squad simulation; two annoying stepbrothers hope to party like rock stars; a broken heart wants to be mended with a choice she regrets, and one has eyes on a bully that ruined their high school years.
Naturally being spewed from the studio with the spinning chair intro, this take on Fantasy Island is far more intense than the original 60s show and tries to lean into a nightmare holiday. Instead, the second they walk up the dock after getting off ‘the plane, boss, the plane’ and things get very boring very quickly. The ropey dialogue and cutout characters hark back to horrors from the early 2000’s it feels that dated. Nobody gels and everyone immediately outstays their welcome, as Pena looks on, aiming for stoic but signalling switched off. He’s not alone.
Tonally the film is all over the place. Not quite horror, and barely a thrill to be had, the first act spends time showing that, indeed, these dreams are realities that they may not have hoped for, but they’re barely appealing to begin with. Separately, each ‘fantasy’ is uninteresting and lacks anything to compel you to stick around until the final act does a half-assed job of stitching them all together. From there, the peril-o-meter gets turned up to mild and you’ll be hoping for a way off the island more than the passengers of Oceanic 815.
It had every chance to give us a Jumanji-type horror. Of reinventing the wheel that could’ve been smarter than the shoddy result we’re left with. Do yourself a favour, and see The Invisible Man, again.