Blumhouse is keen to give Jeff Wadlow (Kick Ass 2) another directorial gig after his small Truth or Dare scored a massive USD 95.3 million (against the production budget of only USD 3.5 million). And then, he’s granted the new project, Fantasy Island, an adaptation of a 70s television show about an island that has the capability to grant people’s fantasies. So, here comes Wadlow playing out with the missing link between the original show (which was last aired in 1984) and the modern viewers to craft some pseudo-intriguing hyper narrative.
The premise follows the series almost religiously. Mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) is the host of the titular tropical island that makes the secret dreams of lucky guests come true. But, as he always explains, fantasies are not always what you think it is. Sometimes, it turns into nightmares; and, since it’s a Blumhouse movie, what can go wrong will go wrong. It’s the premise when a batch of guests—a young woman dealing with a lost love (Maggie Q), a social-media persona with a grudge from the past (Lucy Hale), an army wannabe (Austin Stowell), and a happy-go-lucky guy (Ryan Hansen) with his step-brother (Jimmy O. Yang)—arrive at the island; we know that something bad is about to happen.
Given the premise, the new Fantasy Island seems to present multiple stories with multiple subgenres into one frame. Each of the guests has different fantasies, ranging from a time-travel romance, Call of Duty inspired war, straightforward B-movie torture porn, and 24/7 kind of party mode. Occasionally, each fantasy intersects and bleeds each other even when they are totally different in scales and tones. To make matter worse, each fantasy seems to have different sets of rules which seem to be contradicting each other. However, Wadlow does not seem to care if the random bleed does not work.
The further we explore Fantasy Island goes, the more it positions itself like it’s Inception. The movie begins to give several questions which mostly derivated from “whose fantasy is this?” As if the malicious fantasy-turned-nightmare premise is not enough, the narrative is injected with mysteries without expositions. When the narrative suggests that the mystery should be taken seriously, the direction goes on the opposite way. It seems that Wadlow’s insistence on making this a comedy after all really takes its toll eventually.
Funny thing is, Fantasy Island manages to keep the whole thing PG even when the narrative sometimes nudges the graphic borderline, especially in its torture porn fantasy. There’s barely any risk and you are excused to think that it’s simply that kind of cheap thrills (despite the claim that people are eager to invest a lot of money just to have a sip of the fantasy the island offers). There’s simply not enough fantasy and not enough adventure.