The producers, the director, the writers and the leading star of Truth or Dare (2018) came together once again to make Fantasy Island. This should be enough for you to understand that Fantasy Island is one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen in the past few years, as well as one of the worst big-budget horror movies ever made.
In fact, for some reason Blumhouse decided to invest $7,000,000 into this thing, which is the horror version of the popular ’70s TV show of the same name about a magical island resort. Despite the budget and the fact that it was somehow released in theatres, Fantasy Island feels like less than a first draft, directed by a 14-year-old horney dork who grew up watching shitty 80s TV shows and doesn’t understand what a movie is supposed to be. Obviously, in order to back up these harsh statements, I need to spoil the whole movie and guide you through most of the horrible moments that comprised this pathetic excuse for a horror flick.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Fantasy Island – The crumbling plot
Before the actual “plot” is introduced, we are gifted with an opening scene that has it all: cringe-worthy dialogue, cheap jump-scare (at the 1.27-minute mark, which must be a record), bad acting, shaky-camera, poorly-lit action, obnoxiously loud stock music and, of course, no genuine tension whatsoever. Then, the main cast of “characters” is introduced. It’s a bunch of “dude bros” and “bimbos” who arrive on the titular Fantasy Island, where they’re greeted by Miss Exposition (she’s named Julia in the movie): she dumps exposition on the characters – and, thus, on the audience – about the island, where fantasies are tailored by Mr Roarke (Michael Pena) to the personality of the guests. Aside from the guests, whose few lines of dialogue are immediately face-palm worthy, everyone else in the movie appears shady and cartoonish from the get-go, as though it was necessary to make it obvious to the audience that they’re the bad guys.
Melanie (terribly played by Lucy Hale) soon becomes our main character, which is a terrible news: she is the most embarrassing, weak and poorly-written character I’ve seen in a movie since Joey King’s Shannon in Wish Upon. She’s there just to look hot and get sexed up by every man in the movie, which is honestly insulting and offensive to watch. Initially, Melanie and the other characters are invited to parties filled with overly sexualised men and women, alcohol and fancy extras. They’re very happy about it, because they’re the kind of people you would find in an American Pie movie, except that Fantasy Island implies a serious tone that clearly doesn’t match with its story and characters. Soon, however, it becomes clear to the protagonists that something is not right: their fantasies quickly become much darker than they expected… in fact, that was pretty obvious since the get-go, but these characters are the dumbest people on the planet, so obviously they didn’t foresee anything.
Tell, don’t show!
Have you ever heard of the “show, don’t tell” rule? 99% of good movies in the history of cinema apply said rule to the story, which means they deliver important plot points through character reactions, visuals, hidden messages and so on. Fantasy Island, which is the complete opposite of a good movie, applies another rule: the “tell, don’t show!” rule. In fact, every time two characters speak to each other they explain, blatantly and shamelessly, their backstory, how they feel, their motivations… It’s as though they are nothing more than speaking scripts, with no personality other than some vague and unlikeable traits. On top of that, every time Fantasy Island relies on social media (which happens a lot, as it’s the case for most bad movies), the movie has a character speaking over what’s shown just to make what’s happening painfully obvious for the dumb audience! This is the kind of movie that treats the viewer as though we were braindead, drooling idiots!
The same goes for every single aspect in the movie: characters appear out of the blue, for no apparent reason, and start regurgitating exposition. At one point, private investigator Damon, played by Michael Rooker, comes out of the jungle and explains that the fantasies are created by the spring water under the island’s “heart”: a glowing rock that shows a person’s deepest desires. He goes on telling the audience how Roarke mixed the water with his guests’ drinks and how he came to the island to investigate until Roarke offered him a wish to see his deceased daughter: Damon accepted, even though he knew Roarke was evil, which obviously led to his fantasy turning into a living nightmare that trapped him on the island. Michael Rooker, who’s a great actor, is truly awful in this movie: not just his character is as dumb as a sack of bricks, but he’s also more cartoonish and less realistic than the blue alien with a magic killer-wand he played in Guardians of the Galaxy! Even Mr Roarke, played by a horribly miscast Michael Pena (who gives the worst performance in his career), comes out every now and again to spell out some blatant exposition.
“It was my fantasy the whole time” “No, it was mine!” – Idiotic plot twists
After Damon gives us the first stupid plot twist, the one about magic water (really? Is this a Goosebumps episode?), Mr Roarke reveals a second, even dumber, twist: in fact, he straight-up tells one of the guests, Gwen (Maggie Q), that he has his own fantasy, which has to do with his deceased wife, and it will be fulfilled as long as he meets his guests in their fantasies. If the whole movie is building up to the story being told from Mr Roarke’s perspective, why the hell would we see the guests’ fantasies take place as the intended them? How did Mr Roarke know, for example, what kind of girl JD Weaver (the “dude bro” character) likes? How did he know how Patrick (soldier guy)’s dad looked in the late 70s? As soon as you start applying logic – or even consistency – to Fantasy Island, everything falls apart!
But, hey, we are not done with the plot twists yet! Buckle up, because the third plot twist is something to behold: Melanie (Hale), who initially behaves as someone who wishes to get revenge on a childhood bully (great motivation, by the way…), is revealed to have orchestrated everyone’s arrival on Fantasy Island. So, here’s what the movie has been building up towards: a few years prior, Melanie’s crush, Nick, ended up burning alive in an apartment fire accidentally set by Gwen, and everyone else inadvertently had a hand in his death. Wow, that’s convenient, don’t you think? Melanie’s justification for wanting revenge is rooted in the fact that, due to bullying, she was never able to grow up with confidence: Nick was the first person who made her feel like she was special and worthy, and after he “stood her up” on their first date, she started to second-guess herself only to find out that he was killed in a fire. This is, undoubtedly, one of the worst backstories ever written for the silver screen. Not just that, but it causes the third act of Fantasy Island to become a never-ending going back and forth between the characters: “Gotcha! You were in my fantasy this whole time!”; “Nope, you were in my fantasy”; “Hey, wait a second: y’all were in my fantasy the whole time!”. It was both hilariously bad and offensive to watch, honestly.
Bad dialogue from bad actors directed incompetently
Aside from the plot having more holes than the chest of a guy who came across John Wick, annoying characters who regurgitate exposition on one another and some of the worst acting you can conceive, the dialogue is next-level atrocious. On top of that, it’s delivered by actors who are either devoid of any talent or incompetently directed by a guy who has no idea on how to make a movie. The best way for me to back up these claims is to list some of the lines of dialogue in Fantasy island. Please, enjoy:
“Dude, is this a panic room?” “Dude, yeah, just like in that Jodie Foster movie with Jodie Foster!”
“So, you and I were kidnapped by the same person?” “I know, it’s crazy right?!”
“Woh woh who… dazed and confused right? Just like the title of that movie!”
“And then puff, he destroyed my cell phone, because he’s evil. This Island is evil. Roarke is evil”
“You tortured me for years, I was so traumatised I had to drop out of high-school and finish school from home! Yes, ruining your life was wrong, but you ruined mine first!”
Tone-deaf and meaningless references
Perhaps, one of the biggest issues with Fantasy Island, beyond its plot, characters and technical aspects (so, basically everything) is that the movie can’t even decide what tone to go for. There are fantasy elements such as the magic rock that turns fantasies into nightmares; there are bad horror movie clichés like fake jump-scares and PG-13 violence; there is Hollywood schlock action comprised of quick cuts, awful fight choreography and nauseating camera work; there are stoner comedy aspects such as unlikeable and unrealistic characters who just want to get laid. Not only these genres don’t mix together well, but they’re also intertwined in the most amateur, jarring way possible. A scene that takes place in the dark and revolves around characters about to be killed would immediately get interrupted by an overly-lit one that is set on the beach and filled with low-brow jokes. It’s embarrassing: Fantasy Island can’t even stick to the very basic rules of how to make a movie.
This is very apparent with the constant pop-culture references that serve no purpose other than telling the audience: “Hey, do you remember the movie we just mentioned? Wasn’t that a cool movie? I referenced a movie you like, please like me!”. As a consequence, during a home-invasion scene we get a reference to David Fincher’s Panic Room; during the party sequences we are reminded of silly jokes from The Hangover flicks; the scenes in the jungle are filled with call-backs to war movies; in the supposedly horror-related moments, we get clumsy references to The Friday the 13th franchise… What’s the point of these references? Why do they reference different genres and tones with no consistency? No one knows, these incompetent writers and director probably just thought they would’ve been cool.
Filmmaking at its absolute worst
I feel embarrassed by simply using the term “filmmaking” when talking about Fantasy Island. In fact, the cinematography in this flick is nothing more than “take the camera and point it at the character”. It’s the most basic, workmanlike execution you can conceive. There’s no thought or effort behind the shot composition, not a single person involved in the production of Fantasy Island realised cinema is a visual medium: therefore, the whole movie is flat-looking, ugly and boring from a visual standpoint.
On top of that, the camera-work is often shaky and headache-inducing, the editing is jarring and comprised of quick cuts, the music is probably taken from the stock sounds catalogue, the dialogues are filmed only through the basic, dull shot-reverse-shot technique. Sure, most mainstream movies look flat and visually unappealing, but Fantasy Island takes the “I don’t give a shit about filmmaking” approach to a whole new level. Fantasy Island barely counts as a movie: it’s just footage cut and edited together to reach an acceptable runtime and get screened in theatres.
Conclusions – Fantasy Island is one of the worst horror movies ever made
I think I detailed quite in-depth the reasons why Fantasy Island is one of the worst horror movies ever made. Sure, one may argue that movies like Manos: The Hands of Faith, Plan 9 or Troll 2 are way worst… do I agree with that? No, they’re just two different kinds of bad. A movie like Troll 2, for instance, had excuses for being the train wreck that it is: it was made for $200.000, with no studio backing up the project, by an Italian director who didn’t speak English but insisted on writing the script in English. It had no professional actors and, due to budget restraints, most of the crew was comprised of the director’s friends, who clearly had no idea how to make a movie.
Fantasy Island, on the other hand, has no excuse to be as bad as it is: it had a huge studio (Blumhouse) behind it, a relatively big budget of $7,000,000, big-name actors, an experienced crew and so on. Yet, as opposed to hiring some talented indie director, the studio put the project in the hands of an incompetent guy who’s had plenty of opportunities and never made a decent movie in his life. It pisses me off that those $7,000,000 could’ve financed like 15-20 good indie horror movies, but we got a corporate product vomited for the sole reason of making a profit without a single care for art or quality. There’s not a single redeeming aspect about Fantasy Island I can point at: I hated this pathetic attempt at a braindead horror flick, and I hope it’ll be a very long time until we get see such a terrible horror movie.
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