REview: Fantasy Island (2020) | Sometimes Dead is Better

If you’ve seen any of the commercials promoting Sony’s Fantasy Island it could be understood if you mistook it for a horror movie. After all, it’s from Blumhouse Pictures, the studio that released movies like The Darkness (2016), Get Out (2017), Us (2019) and numerous others.

And the adverts imply a lot of sinister goings on though while the things that happen in the commercials do happen Fantasy Island is a lot of things, and a horror movie isn’t one of them.

Sure, there’re elements but using that logic a cupcake is the same as a brownie and anyone who’s had both will tell you that that’s just not the case.

What we’re left with instead is a movie that’s pretty faithful to the series in it’s latter years, which is to say a bit odd and vaguely supernatural.

With Ricardo Montalban having died in 2009 he’s replaced by Michael Peña, who brings a brooding introspectiveness to the role of Mr. Roarke but none of the regalness and inscrutability of Montalban’s performance – though that’s likely less of a question of ability than Peña’s role being more of an extended cameo than anything else.

And that’s part of the problem. Roarke in the original series was more a Rod Serling-esque narrator than an integral part of the story itself. In Jeff Wadlow’s remake/reboot he’s more central to the action, though not only isn’t he on screen enough, but the narrative feels like it’s trying to squeeze him in situations where maybe he shouldn’t be.

Though that’s a hint of the movie’s biggest problem, namely it under invests in it’s characters, while over investing in it’s storyline, which makes the movie feel overwritten and forced at times, while the characters feel flat and almost weightless.

And speaking of characters, Fariza Fitz-Henley (I’ve also seen that as ‘Fariza Fitz-Henry) fights valiantly against the black hole-like pull of this movie’s mediocrity by acting as if she’s in another, much better movie entirely. This is despite her character being on screen for relatively little time – and having little to do when she’s there.

So, that’s Fantasy Island and I’m not at all sure who this movie is supposed to be for. If you’re a horror fan – perhaps lured in by the association with Blumhouse – you’re bound to be disappointed.

If you’re a fan of the original series, you’ll also going to be underwhelmed…so I guess the audience is whomever’s left?

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