Fantasy Island is 98% fiction and only 2% horror. You shouldn't believe the genre distribution on IMDb or the Blumhouse notices, although I personally hoped that it would qualify. In many of its films, Blumhouse releases a cool horror, but not in Fantasy Island - it's painful we are all rolled into one pot with desires, regrets, and illusions to replay the moment. So this is not a horror film then, but a pure psychological movie. In terms of realism, it's fantastic.
The plot of the Fantasy Island discloses the story of a group of tourists who come to a beautiful tropical island. The protagonists rejoice at an anonymous invitation to an expensive resort, about which you can leave your feedback. The resort has a host who introduces himself to the guests as Mr. Roark (Michael Peña), who claims that each of the new arrivals has one cherished desire that can become a reality on the island. Not everyone believes him, but as the fantasies start coming true, it soon becomes clear that you have to pay for every minute of joy.
The movie is a film adaptation of the eponymous series from the distant ‘70s, a multi-part drama that conquered the hearts of the public. In 1998, they also restarted the history of the existence of a mysterious, secluded place that embodied the wishes of its visitors. However, as it was thought to be horrific, something went wrong. For me, for a person who absorbs horror films better than any other genre, Fantasy Island has some food for thought, as it is certainly fearless, and also not superficial, as many critics have written. Fantasy Island does not even make use of its beautiful line, “The Island knows your secrets”.
The Island Knows Your Secrets
A girl wants revenge on a former classmate, who bullied her in school. An athlete wants to be a real soldier. Two annoyingly cheerful brothers – one Asian, the second white (step-brothers) – want “everything.” And another woman visitor passionately regrets that, five years ago, she did not say “yes” to a marriage proposal. The film focuses on the fate of the tourists who have checked in, the rest is just beautiful scenery. Most of the picture successfully draws us into the depths of the island, filling out the story with interesting secrets. It seems that we are told a parable about the dangers of ill-conceived desires, growing out of the basest impulses of greed, aggression, and fear. As each individual’s fate unfolds, enough details emerge to lead us along the path to uncomplicated life lessons and what does not work out in the end.
It seems to me that the episodes – lasting little more than an hour and a half – are less effective than they should be given that they were initially designed for segments lasting at least several hours for each.
The main element in the script remains the protagonists of the film as the fate and history of the island are not disclosed even partially. What do we learn from the film about the island? We learn that the island has its own heart, drawn from the fantasies of people, which is hidden deep in a gorge. It is virtually impossible to find the gorge without a proper map and guide, which appears but is quickly eliminated. In the heart of the island lies the mystery, magic. And then everything is like a fairy tale: first, go north for a long time, then go into the gorge, go through the labyrinth and, if you’re lucky, find out the source. Everything is interesting: the labyrinth that is associated with thoughts, consciousness, sometimes they are confusing, and monsters are ghosts from our perception.
While watching, there is a feeling that the image of the island and the stories of the protagonists needed to compete for time and place under the sun. Since the timeline is much less than in the series, the plot of the film turns out to be a little compressed. Unlike the series, which combined drama and comedy, the full-length film tries to play on the horror theme. The film retains only the main idea: a mysterious island that embodies dreams. Interesting material that can scare with not only loud sounds and monsters but can also show the psychological horror that is born in the mind.
What they managed to save – are beautiful images. The island, characters in white clothes, a wonderful villa. The line of psychological resistance is also complemented. We see the transformation of feelings and emotions in each of the protagonists, from the first day that they arrive on the island. From the first thought to the last lesson that should be learned: it is impossible to return to what has passed, and there is no need to regret, but only to forgive and let go of the situation. Complicated. It is insulting and painful, but we cannot reshape past moments and change our actions. Perhaps this is one of the main storylines of the film. In a perfect life, it would happen right the first time, or you could restart as many times as you need, as the Island makes your wishes come true. Life leads us along its way. Therefore, only we can keep us in the loop of time. Together with the ghosts in the closets, the black bile of bitterness inside us, pouring out tantrums. The concept of Fantasy Island looks too attractive for a simple horror movie.
The picture has everything it needs to become a popular horror film: instantly recognizable characters in the role of tourists, a mysterious villain and an even more mysterious forest hermit, monsters, ghosts, and many secrets. You will be scared and intrigued by gently cruising through the entire ominous amusement park. If you do not get deceived by non-existent ideas and do not try to look for reasons, then you will have some fun. Tropical views and the scorching sun at least look amazing.
Well, in conclusion, you may still ask yourself the question: why is it still possible to make films based on our thoughts? Then watch the film Fantasy Island not just as a horror movie, but as a colourful psychological fiction. Then you will like it.
Read more reviews from the author.
All your donations will be used to pay the magazine’s journalists and to support the ongoing costs of maintaining the site.