Fantasy Island (2020) Movie Review
When Dreams Become Nightmares.
Fantasy Island is a lot of dumb fun, but if you're looking for a horrifying psychological thriller, this won't be your cup of tea. The plot follows five characters, J.D Weaver & Brax Weaver (played by Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang), who are brothers. Patrick Sullivan (played by Austin Stowell) and two women, Melanie Cole (played by Lucy Hale) and Gewn Olsen (played by Maggie Q). Each character has their own fantasy in mind and the mysterious island owner, Mr. Roarke (played by Michael Peña), is here to provide.
Soon the movie splits off into four separate story lines set around the island.
The brothers fantasy involves a wild house party full of swimsuit models and getting drunk, which is supposed to be comedic. Unfortunately these two behave more like hyperactive teenagers, rather than grown men, saying things a millennial teenager on Tiktok would say and it's honestly just embarrassing. Eventually their party days turn sour when a group of machine gun wielding mercenaries show up, to take over the mansion. Despite the creepy masks the mercenaries wear, there is nothing particularly scary about them.
Gwen's story is far better though, as it is a drama about her past mistakes. Her fantasy is to reconnect with her old lover and have the family she never got. This is my favorite story in this film, as the characters within act realistically and it also develops Mr. Roarke's character further, making him seem far more human and deep than just some typical "evil genius" character that has sinister intentions. As her story goes on, she decides to change her fantasy into saving a friend of hers named Nick from an apartment fire, but ultimately this attempt fails and this is where her fantasy becomes a nightmare. This sequence is quite thrilling, it's not exactly horror, but I was on the edge of my seat hoping she would make it out alive.
Patrick's story is fairly decent, but underdeveloped. His father was a soldier who died during battle. His fantasy involves going on a military mission, he soon meets his father, but the two argue once Patrick tells his father he died saving his squad. So Patrick's father plans to abandon the squad you see, but Patrick hates this for he's always seem his father as a hero and not a coward. This story eventually crosses with the brothers story line as their mission leads them to the mansion. In fact all the stories and characters eventually tie in together and the finale becomes a survival horror, but before we can talk about that we must discuss Melanie's story.
Melanie's story involves her finally getting revenge on her school bully (played by Portia Doubleday). She enters a torture chamber and see's her bully behind a glass, non reflective screen, so that the hostage can't see her. There are buttons on a computer monitor that humiliate her bully by giving her little electric shocks, embarrassing her on social media and drenching her with toilet water. It's all very silly, playful and actually funny. This is until a huge mutant surgeon shows up, looking like something out of Resident Evil or Silent Hill and begins torturing her bully. This goes too far, so Melanie uses the electrical trap to stun the monster while she saves her bully and escapes the torture chamber together. On the island they eventually bump into a secret agent named Damon (played by Michael Rooker ), who was sent here to investigate the secrets of the island. Here it is revealed that the island is essentially alive and grants people's wishes, but sacrifices must be made in order to keep some fantasies alive.
All of these stories eventually tie in together as the last remaining survivors find themselves in this cave, where the heart of the island resides. The island does everything it can to prevent these survivors from defeating it, dead characters come back to life to attack them. They face their inner demons, manifested into grotesque monsters and horrifying visions. They overcome personal challenges and all the stories meet satisfying conclusions.
Spoilers: In the final act, we discover Mr. Roarke's wife (played by Parisa Fitz-Henley) died years ago, so he keeps her alive by sacrificing "guests" to the island like a ritual of some kind. You see, his wife keeps dying over and over again due to an illness, so he must keep doing this to keep her alive. Her mortality is tied to the island's needs. Unfortunately there is another final twist that completely ruins the character of Melanie. It is revealed that she is the one who helped organize to kill everyone, because she was in love with Nick who died in the fire and everyone in the story had a small part in his demise or had humiliated her in someway, (her bully, Patrick was a police man who was too cowardly to enter the fire, the brothers were in the building, but didn't do anything to help and Gwen was the one responsible for the fire that killed him). This twist is actually quite decent looking back on it, but this finale is paced so badly it feels rushed and out of nowhere! The film has two major plot twists with Mr. Roarke and Melanie, right at the end and it honestly felt like I was watching a parody akin to Scary Movie or Airplane. It's not too bothersome when you look at this film as a satire, but it's just too ridiculous and confusing to be taken seriously. It's like something out of Scooby Doo. One plot twist can work well, but when you have so many reveals and twists happen in such a short amount of time, it becomes a cartoon! Anyway, Mr. Roarke is eventually convinced by his wife to let her die, so then he becomes the good guy, betrays Melanie, who then dies by the hands of burned Nick and the remaining survivors escape in the end.
Honestly, I feel like Fantasy Island works far better as a TV series. There is just far too much information, plot twists and reveals thrown at you in the final act. It just ends so quickly, that your brain hardly has the time to even understand what the on earth even happened before the final credits roll. Now that I've got my thoughts written down on paper, I can see there was potential for a decent story here. It just needed a lot more time to flesh out the characters, story arcs and plot twists. Fantasy Island may be ridiculous, but it has a certain charm. The concept of their dreams becoming nightmares is fascinating enough to warrant a watch. If it wasn't for the comedic tone, I would be giving this a 3 Star review instead of a 4 out of 5.
About the author
My name is Joseph Roy Wright, the British author of 5 Independent novels!
I like to write about movies, pop culture, fiction and horror! I review all the latest films (and classics), I also like to write short stories.