Blumhouse's Fantasy Island Feb 15, 2020 18:08:05 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Feb 15, 2020 18:08:05 GMT -5
Blumhouse's Fantasy Island (2020)
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Michael Peña is Mr. Roarke in Blumhouse's Fantasy Island.
The extreme contempt for Blumhouse's Fantasy Island is a little mystifying. It's a crafty anthology that does its best to service the tropes of the 1970s program while putting a horror spin on the material. The detriment at hand is that trying to compile several characters' unique fantasies into one film proves challenging in making a cohesive picture. At times, it feels as if there's six different screenplays operating all at once, which makes this sub-two hour film a surprisingly exhausting affair when it all concludes. But Michael Peña and a diverse cast sell the FAHN-tasy nicely.
Peña headlines as Mr. Roarke, boasting a pleasantly hammy accent and donning the pearly white suit once rocked by Ricardo Montalbán, further confirming he's one of the more special veteran actors of this generation. Roarke is the proprietor of the titular resort, frequently hosting a seemingly random assortment of guests with every intention to make their desires come to life.
Time for the guest roll-call: we have Melanie (Lucy Hale), who dreams of exacting revenge against a high school mean-girl Sloane (Portia Doubleday), stepbrothers J.D. (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang), who want to live like Miami millionaires, Patrick (Austin Stowell), a police officer who has had to live with the consequences of his heroic father, who died in combat, and Gwen (Maggie Q), a businesswoman who wants a do-over after turning down an engagement she believed she didn't deserve. Upon arriving on ze plane, the guests each roam around the idyllic island until Mr. Roarke informs them that their fantasy is ready to inhabit. Predictably, all of them get more than they bargained for when they discover their fantasies are immersive experiences with real-life consequences.
The blending of all these individualized excursions occasionally feels like channel-surfing between Saw, Spring Breakers, Lone Survivor, and Beyond the Lights. The wildly different dreams and pursuits of these characters forces writers Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2, who also directed), Chris Roach (Non-Stop, and Jillian Jacobs (Blumhouse's Truth or Dare) to weave us through these drastically contrasting narrative-threads. It's disjointed, but how could it not be? The conduit is Mr. Roarke popping up whenever he chooses, either to remind the guests they are allotted only one fantasy and must see it through until its natural conclusion or prove to us that the resort is his playground that guests are simply lucky enough to experience.
Seeing as the fantasies themselves are so wildly unique and the characters essentially blank slates to us upon meeting them, the burden of predictability isn't an issue. Focus shifts from a life-or-death situation on the frontlines of war, a torture room with a doctor so menacing he'd make Dr. Giggles cringe, to an endless array of bikini-clad Malibu Barbies in a matter of minutes, so the flighty perspective at least never lets us linger too long on a given sequence. The most wholesome fantasy is that of Gwen's, who simply wants another chance at domesticity with her grounded partner and a baby girl (so she believes). Her story offers a breather between the sensory stimulation of combat and hedonism.
I feel few horror fans would argue that many studios produce such consistently compelling horror films as Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions, with the exception maybe being A24 amongst their more diversified catalog. That being said, I find it bizarre that they decide to attach their name onto some of their most dubious projects, between this and last year's utterly lackluster Truth or Dare. Fantasy Island is a creative concept that loans itself to a marginally compelling, suspenseful adventure, despite the seams of the script suggesting too much weight for the project to bear.
NOTE: Take a listen to my review of Blumhouse's Fantasy Island on my podcast, "Stove's Movie Minute," which is also now available via Apple Podcasts: www.walls102.com/episode/stoves-movie-minute-fantasy-island-2020/
Starring: Michael Peña, Lucy Hale, Ryan Hansen, Jimmy O. Yang, Maggie Q, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Michael Rooker, and Parisa Fitz-Henley. Directed by: Jeff Wadlow.