To most people outside of the USA and under a certain age the name Fantasy Island means, well it means absolutely nothing but therein lies the genius of this horror reimagining of the original cult 70’s TV series.
Many people may in fact be more aware of the show, which aired in America between 1977 to 1984, than they might think seeing as it has been parodied and referenced many times in modern media. Featuring Star Trek’s Ricardo Montalbán as the mysterious island owner Mr. Roarke and Bond star Hervé Villechaize as his assistant Tattoo, Fantasy Island’s catch phrases and motifs pop up in everything from Deep Blue Sea to Teen Titans Go.
With the original Fantasy Island series sometimes featuring supernatural and mythological elements as well as an occasional Monkey’s Paw style twist it was an easy yet still risky leap to transform it in 2020 into a full blown horror. Extending on the idea behind last years unexpectedly brutal and brilliant The Banana Splits Movie, this Blumhouse production also turns the remake culture on its head turning up the dark on the fantasy drama.
The set up sees five competition winners arriving at the idyllic Fantasy Island to experience all it has to offer and share there thoughts online in the hopes they will increase the tourist trade. Greeted by the enigmatic Mr. Roarke (Ant-Man’s Michael Peña) each guest gets to play out their deepest fantasy, whatever that may be, while adhering to two simple rules; only one fantasy per person and everyone must see their fantasy out till the end, whatever that end is.
While brother’s Brax and J.D (played by Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O. Yang and Veronica Mars’s Ryan Hansen) live the high life partying in a mansion filled with guns, girls, guys and plenty of drugs, Patrick (Austin Stowell) gets to play solider meeting up with a highly trained unit in the lush jungle.
Melanie (Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Liars) takes the chance to take some revenge on the bully who ruined her childhood and most interestingly of all Gwen (Maggie Q from Divergent) decides to relive an important moment in her past in the hopes of undoing the life of regret she now leads.
Unsure whether the fantasies they are participating in are virtual reality, drug induced hallucinations, an actor filled experience or actually real each guest soon finds out nothing comes for free and all of their wildest dreams start to transform into living nightmares as the island takes control.
Written by Jeff Wadlow, Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs, Fantasy Island has a far more intricate and interesting story than many might expect from a reboot of an ancient TV series. By no means a lazy cash-in the update works if you are familiar with the original or not with the various plot lines and characters deftly developing and converging into a twisted narrative that pays off perfectly. The script sees the holiday makers question everything constantly, giving the film a far more realistic feel and allowing the audience to accept the warped world evolving around them.
The main ensemble of actors all shine with some great support from Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker, Parisa Fitz-Henley and Portia Doubleday from the recent Carrie remake. Director Jeff Wadlow creatively keeps all the sometimes baffling narrative balls in the air while upping the tension and terror throughout. Full marks should also go to him and the writers for instilling a crazy coherence in the rules and ultimate explanations, a hard task indeed when you have set up that literally anything is possible on the island.
Smashing together Westworld, Aladdin and Wishmaster into something so much better than that combination sounds, Fantasy Island is an entertaining and imaginative horror with a killer plot line that will have you marooned in its madness till the plane comes to take you away.