'Fantasy Island' Review—Unscary and Painful

by Jonathan Sim 3 months ago in movie review

No spoilers!

'Fantasy Island' Review—Unscary and Painful

If I could go to an island where I could have any fantasy I ever wanted, it would be an island where movies this bad don't get made.

From the makers of the "critically acclaimed" Truth or Dare comes a February horror movie that we all expected to be amazing, right? Jeff Wadlow directs Blumhouse's Fantasy Island is a movie about a group of people who go on an island to live their fantasy, without realizing the sinister ramifications waiting for them.

There isn't very much to say about this movie besides the fact that this is the most dreadful film I've seen in recent years with a sloppily written screenplay and some of the cheapest, unscary scares possible for a horror movie.

Ever since I committed to watching as many 2020 movies as possible this year, I knew I was in for some bad movies, and while I did have to suffer through Gretel & Hansel and The Turning, this movie is the worst of the year so far.

According to every online source and every piece of marketing, this is a supernatural horror film. But so much of this movie isn't trying to be scary, and when it does try to be frightening, it doesn't work.

Our main characters all have a fantasy; one wants revenge on a childhood bully, one wants a husband and child, one wants to enlist in the war, and two brothers want to rave with a bunch of models. The catch is that their fantasies have unintended consequences, but the problem is none of these fantasies result in anything particularly scary.

Furthermore, these fantasies are so different that whenever the film cuts between these fantasies, the tonal shift is very jarring. It doesn't even feel like the tone changes; it feels like the entire genre changes throughout the film from a teen horror movie to a romance drama to a war film to an action crime thriller.

A lot of the film feels more like an action movie or a sad drama, but the writers don't go to great lengths to make the events or characters depressing. The film had the potential for frightening ideas and tense, atmospheric horror, but instead wastes it on loud noises to "scare" the audience.

There's very little tension in the story because of how unclear the rules of the island are. It is unclear how much of the movie is real and how much is just an imaginary fantasy, so it can be hard for the audience to become invested in the film's events because we don't know if they're in genuine danger.

It would be easier to care about the film's events if the characters were more interesting, but they're recycled clichés. Melanie Cole, portrayed by Lucy Hale, is a girl on her phone who got bullied by the popular girl in school, and JD Weaver (Ryan Hansen) is the annoying frat boy who makes a lot of movie references.

Every character in this movie has a backstory. The audience learns about these backstories when they state what has happened to them in the past. The writers had no idea how to "show, don't tell," and the result is scene after scene of verbal exposition dumps.

Now, the endless exposition is not the only failure in this failure of a screenplay; the film attempts to be funny so many times, but every attempt at comedy falls flat on its face. It's easy to get me to laugh, but the only time I laughed during this movie is when I was laughing at its awfulness.

Many things in this film are overexplained, and other parts are unexplained. For example, when Melanie is getting her revenge on her bully, Sloane, in a torture chamber, she uploads a video of Sloane online, but we have no idea how the island received this video. Later, when we see a live feed of another character, we don't know how they received this footage either.

And in this scene, Melanie has a bunch of controls that she uses to torture Sloane. However, later in the scene, she clicks on one of the buttons and it shows her security camera footage of Sloane's kidnapping; why does one of the torture buttons show Melanie information that she needs to know?

It's because the screenwriters had no idea how to tell a story.

The film's twist is also absurd. It throws in an idea that was not set up earlier and has nothing to do with the actual island. Many parts of the ending contradict other scenes, and there's even a line where a character seems to make fun of the absurdity of the twist as if the writers knew they were writing something stupid and didn't care.

Without giving anything away, the movie ends with a character receiving a new nickname. He had gotten a tattoo of the word "tattoo" in college, and his name becomes Tattoo. I don't know if the writers wanted to end with something symbolic or something as idiotic as humanly possible. Either way, I was utterly shocked by the absurdity of this movie's conclusion.

Not even the performances can save this movie. There are a lot of talented actors in this film, from Michael Peña to Maggie Q, everyone is phoning in their performances. No one seems to be trying in this film, and their talent is wasted on uninteresting characters.

You know, when January ended, I thought most of the bad horror movies of the year ended with Gretel & Hansel. But it turns out this movie is worse than any film in January because of how painful it was to watch this screenplay executed on the big screen.

The fact that this film couldn't decide what it wanted to be and decided to jump between all these different genres made this movie insufferable. The only compliment I can give to this movie is that the shots are in focus, and the framing is fine. On a technical level, this movie is acceptable.

While this movie wants to be a very emotional, scary horror film, it fails to do so because of its unintentionally hilarious moments. Once again, the genre and tone kept changing, and even the villains of the film feel less like horrific demonic entities and more like gangsters in a B-grade action movie.

Every twist and every revelation is told to the audience, not shown. The fact that this movie was made is ridiculous. While this movie's direction is average, there are almost no redeeming qualities to this unscary atrocity of a film.

Final Score: Fantasy Island—2/10 (D-)

Do yourself a favor this weekend. Take a walk. Hang out with friends or family. Whatever you do, stay away from this movie. And if you want to see a good movie in theaters, go for Sonic the Hedgehog.

If you don't want to do any of those things, then maybe you should take a trip to an island.

movie review
Jonathan Sim
Jonathan Sim
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Jonathan Sim

Film critic. Lover of Pixar, Disney, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Back to the Future, and Lord of the Rings.

See all posts by Jonathan Sim