Thursday, 19 March 2020

Fantasy Island ★★★☆☆

Blumhouse has been somewhat successful with their plans to dominate the horror landscape. With the majority of their films being produced on a tight budget, the hits pay for the stinkers, and they all combine to form an enticing package of movies to sell on to international broadcasters. On the other hand, this means that for every Creep, there’s an Ouija (6% on Rotten Tomatoes), so you’re forced to wait and see during the first half-hour.

Forebodingly, the opening scene of Fantasy Island is so generic that it was honestly reminiscent of Scary Movie, and similarities follow when the islanders are eventually introduced. They’re all fairly stereotypical, although the main character, (let’s call her Generica Genericson) is one of a selection of guests who were called to a mysterious hotel. Of course, everything begins to go wrong after the enigmatic Mr Roarke (Michael Pena) makes an appearance, telling them to prepare to live out their wishes, whatever they may be. 

The story flits between the visitors’ respective fantasies as they begin to realise that they didn’t really factor in the stark reality of what they wished for. Fame, revenge, second chances, there’s no point in holding onto regrets from the past, and they’re typically selfish thoughts that shouldn’t be acted on in real-life. It soon descends into a straight-up fight for survival, as various foes try to ensure that the fantasies are taken to a logical conclusion. (In other words, the death of the guests.)

There’s a clear supernatural element as the island itself seems to hunt them down mercilessly, with different beats for the comic relief duo of step-brothers who make jokes at every opportunity while sleeping with models, or Maggie Q’s desperate attempts to save a neighbour from the past who died in a house fire. Tropes come in thick and fast, but there are a few twists and genre shifts to keep you on your toes as a viewer.

Horror films traditionally score badly in comparison to the rest, either struggling to throw off stereotypes and tropes or embracing them too comfortably. Fantasy Island swerves towards the latter end of the scale, but it’s still a fun film, flitting between the different characters without spending too long with one particular story. More of an action-comedy than anything else for much of the time, being careful about what you wish for is a simple but effective concept to base a movie around. 

It’s not scary in any real sense, but director Jeff Wadlow has clearly taken the time to focus on the human aspect of wish fulfilment, rather than providing an ever-increasing body count for fans of visceral gore. With a reported return of over $30m from a budget of just $7.2m, it looks like Blumhouse has done it again, although it’s unlikely to win any awards or critical acclaim. 

James Millin-Ashmore

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