Dream holidays and fantasies, they remain perfect because they exist in a limbo, vacuumed away from any imperfection of reality. A 70s T.V. show playfully poked at this with light-hearted escapism going comically wrong. In 2020, that sane show got a sinister slasher vibe as a new audience got to realise the deadly consequences of getting what you want in Fantasy Island.
A group of strangers are invited to a remote tropical island, named Fantasy Island. Here the guests are treated to a tailor-made fantasy that is as real as the wisher wants them to be. Two rules govern the island: You only get one fantasy, and the fantasy must run to its natural conclusion. Seems idyllic, but as the fantasies devolve into their conclusions the island’s full potential is realised to lethal results.
The elephant of the room must be the genre swap, moving the show’s light-hearted nature to a more serious and terminal place may be controversial, but with the drastic swap we get some comforts of classic and contemporary) slasher films. For instance, we greet our cast of characters and immediately struck by how they all fit a tropey stock cliche. Going beyond characters, there are a plethora of uncomfortable moments as hidden curiosities and monstrosities lurk on the uninhabited part of the island and the all-too-real moments of torture that the fantasies present themselves.
Following in the footsteps of Ricardo Montalban might not be the easiest task, but Pena’s take on the character that even fits his updated backstory. Maggie Q also gets more than she bargained for, when she faces an impossible dilemma involving the seemingly perfect second chance. Horror veteran Lucy Hale also brings a lot to the proceedings as Melanie who learns that revenge fantasies have their comeuppance, even if the target may deserve it. Much of the film’s levity comes from brothers J.D. & “T” played by Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang respectively, who want to sample the decadence of party living while getting their real-life situations in order. Rounding off the group is Austin Stowell playing Patrick, whose army fantasy delves into the concepts of honour and sacrifice and gives the film an almost anthology quality. Even these seemingly independent desires get connected as the magic of the island.
Proving once again that the team behind Blumhouse are the keen students of the slasher horror genre, they bring modern flourishes as they make a keen nightmare out of anybody’s dream holiday. The effort is thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. It can be creepy at times even to someone who has seen it all before and will keep you guessing to the end as the masterplan of the island reveals itself. Twist and turns keep the premise fresh. Though the mortality rate is high, Fantasy island is an alluring film’s dream destination.
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