Movie Review: Fantasy Island (2020)

May 7, 2020

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Fantasy Island begins exactly like any episode of it’s late ’70s boob-tube classic namesake did; namely a plane arrives on a gorgeous tropical island filled with folks looking to have their greatest wish granted by the island’s suave owner Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña stepping in for the late Ricardo Montalban) via… well, who the fuck knows… but he can do it, or rather the island can, and once a fantasy starts you must not end it.

The fantasies are pretty standard on their surface level; a non-stop sex and drug fueled party, a second chance at happiness, a chance to be a soldier (okay, that’s a bit out of left fuckin’ field, but there’s another angle present that makes it reasonable), and revenge against a horrendous childhood bully… except where on the original show things usually didn’t end up balls deep in the horror biz, here that is exactly what happens!

Soon our harried heroes and heroines find themselves in all manner of life and death struggles including facing off against a demonic doctor, trying to survive bloodthirsty criminals, living the ideal life… wait, what the fuck now?

Anyway, push comes to shove, and our protagonists must conqueror their fears as well as their personality flaws if they hope to survive the island’s monstrous machinations!

When I first heard about this “high concept” (*shiver*) take on the beloved television program I thought it was going to be nothing more than a steaming pile of a hot take, but your’s cruelly can admit when he was wrong.

For the most part this flick is true to the original… presenting morality plays that teach the people making the wishes that what they already have is greater than what they desire… although here it is taught with more suspense and violence than in the O.G. version, ‘natch.

I actually dug the hell out of that, as I did the more haunted version of Roarke that Peña portrayed, as well as how the various fantasies dove-tailed with one another… hell, I even loved how the island itself was a living, seemingly malevolent, entity.

Also in the plus column are strong performances from Maggie Q, Portia Doubleday, and Michael Rooker (as the woman looking to reclaim a romance lost, the bully that falls victim to a fantasy, and a grizzled P.I. respectively).

In the negative column, those that were straight-up fans of the original show may take umbrage at how this film takes rather dark twists on both the island and it’s powers, and on how Roarke is handled… and the Greek chorus that Hervé Villechaize’s Tattoo character portrayed in the original is sorely missed (though a reference to the character does appear).

All in all, I enjoyed Blumhouse’s take on Fantasy Island; it’s loaded with horror tropes… but it’s true to the original as well… a fun and freaky time revisiting a well-worn classic with some new spice added to the recipe!



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