Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island (NC16)
Starring Michael Pena, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell
Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Is this Fantasy Island or Ecstasy Island? What are they smoking here? Man, this is one disjointed mess of a movie with many mini-movies thrown in. I mean, anything goes is one thing. But anything goes crazily is another.
I'll say this though. Turning a campy 1970s-80s TV fantasy-drama series that's best remembered for a dapper white-suited Latino man standing next to an excitable midget shouting “Ze plane! Ze plane!” into a horror flick? Sounds nuts but actually kinda inspired. Like changing The Brady Bunch into a family of serial killers or remaking The Love Boat into a weapon of mass destruction.
By the way, no odd little sidekick named Tattoo (played by Herve Villechaize in the original show) pops up in this flick. So you can drop all your dwarf fantasies.
But, damn, I'm still curious. Think about it. Fantasy Island — where your deepest, wildest fantasy comes true — is perfectly set up for a horror reboot, right? It sounds sorta like Shutter Island-meets-Escape Room.
But that's only if this film sticks to scaring us consistently like Saw or Halloween or even Cats. Instead of making us laugh sporadically while we are trying to figure out exactly how many different genres we're watching here.
Okay, let's count.
Arriving at creepily cordial host Mr Roarke's (Michael Pena) middle-of-nowhere mystery island — it's filmed in Fiji — via a seaplane is a cast of fodder so diversified that there's even a subtle 50 Shades Of Gradation in the form of Maggie Q (half-Asian) and Jimmy O. Yang (full Asian).
This island is like Sentosa. But with more space and zero tourists from China. As per the TV show, Roarke calls his arrivals “guests” with a big “Welcome to Fantasy Island” greeting. But this time they're really victims with rules to obey. Only one fantasy is granted and no one can cop out because it has to be played out to its bitter end. Which, unbeknownst to the guests, includes dying since the deal comes with a high price. Wish for a mansion here and it comes with drug cartel lunatics who enjoy cutting off arms.
Q appears to be the main star here because she gets her own mini-movie of a serious romantic drama. As very unsmiling Gwen Olsen, her fantasy is a do-over with the man she almost married and the child she never had. While I'm thinking, “Are you nuts? You're Maggie Q. You don't do do-overs. Do-overs do over themselves for you.” C'mon, she's the perfect fantasy girl for Crazy Rich Asians, right?
Anyway, she shares island time with an ethnic-comic pair of idiotic horny white fella, JD (Ryan Hansen), and idiotic horny Asian geek, Brax (Yang from Silicon Valley), who are in a bromance so unreal they claim to be real brothers.
These two bozos are in a fratboy comedy here with their fantasy of a non-stop pool party with blonde supermodels for the ang moh and bronzed super-hot men for the Asian nerd. I tell you, seeing Yang play a ridiculous gay guy salivating at near-naked dudes is a fantasy-nightmare which may never be fully erased from my mind.
Next is the war-film segment of manly Austin Stowell (Bridge Of Spies) as a cop, Patrick Sullivan, fantasising about combat as a soldier. I'm thinking why don't just play with toy soldiers, dude? While he ends up being captured in the jungle by his own soldier-hero dad who, in the real world, er, died years ago.
Rounding up the fantasy merry-go-round in a Mean Girls add-on is bullied victim Melanie Cole (Truth Or Dare's Lucy Hale). She seeks unfinished revenge against her former high-school tormentor, Sloane Maddison (Portia Doubleday). Problem is, the person strapped to a chair undergoing torture by a big mad freak borrowed from Saw isn't a hologram, as she believes, but the real gal in torn flesh and dripped blood.
Just so you know, there's also a Ju On ghost thingy in a cave that's largely just dumped in for fun. It's there because director/co-writer Jeff Wadlow probably thought it cool to fulfill his fantasy of a Ju On ghost in a cave for fun. For the record, I like Wadlow's previous horror deal, Truth Or Dare, which he controlled better.
You're watching all these pocket-sized Twilight Zone episodes in this mishmash segueing in and out of each other and you try to keep track but will give up on both the mish and the mash. Primarily because some fantasised characters seem real while others are the unstoppable undead with black goo coming out of their eyes. And you just don't care anymore as both the movie and cast run literally all over the place. Seriously, what is it about Blumhouse horror films and black goo? Black Christmas had this too just recently.
To be fair, though, Fantasy Island at least tries to make sense —or maybe nonsense — of things. Everyone is linked together, of course, and there's a fairly good twist. Plus the best part of the whole movie is right at the end when Tattoo, long unmentioned, is finally acknowledged.
By which time, in true Fantasy Island tradition, we're left with Pena's merely perfunctory Mr Roarke as the keeper of the island's dark secret with his loyal assistant. And, boy, do we miss both the dearly departed and much beloved Ricardo Montalban, the original Mr Roarke, and Villechaize.
“He's the genie and this island is his bottle,” somebody says about mysterious host Roarke here. Know what? Someone else should really have kept this island bottled up. (*1/2)
Photo: Sony Pictures Entertainment