Pillbox

Fantasy Island

Spoilers for Fantasy Island, but everyone should see this

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I don’t really have anything going on. I just went through my daily routine of trying to find my ID and sorting out my issues. But that didn’t matter, because the evening is, as Anakin Skywalker famously said, “where the fun begins”. I had made plans with friends to watch a horror movie that I had seen no promotion or reviews for, had barely heard about, and had released in the middle of February. The film in question?

Fantasy Island.

Just the name alone is enticing. Unfortunately for us, the film is only playing at AMC and in the Dolby Cinema format, with the rolling sound and sharp contrast screen. As we bought the tickets at the front desk, I got to glean more information about the movie. Turns out, it’s directed by the man who made Truth or Dare, which is a really terrible horror film from a few years ago, and it stars the same lead actress. It’s a remake of an old ABC show from 1977. The producer is Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, who has brought us gems like Ma, Unfriended, and Ouija. And it’s PG-13, which is highly correlated with bad horror. Now my hype is through the roof.

I should say, for the record, that we were all sober, and the things I say happen in this movie are real. However, it’s hard to remember what happens. It’s one of those movies that’s simultaneously memorable and forgettable, like a traumatic experience. There’s five movies in one, and it makes a movie that was only an hour and 49 minutes feel like four hours.

The premise of Fantasy Island is very simple. Five contestants are picked to spend some time on this island where there are two rules: 1) every guest has only one fantasy, and 2) each fantasy must be seen through to its natural conclusion. I don’t even know where to start with this movie, so I’m just gonna go in order of what I remember.

Every one of the five central contestants is just so painfully cringe. You have Melanie (Lucy Hale), who is someone who wants revenge on a bully. There’s Patrick (Austin Stowell), a generic looking white boy who wants a reenactment of Call of Duty because he feels bad that his dad is a war hero. Not to mention, he’s a coward cop who once let someone die on the job. You have JD (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang), who are two stepbrothers who “want to have it all.” Then there is Gwen (Maggie Q), who wants to accept a marriage proposal from a man she loves because she is filled with regret. This is the only fantasy that Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena) actually likes and considers a challenge.

I thought this was a horror movie, but this is already the best comedy of 2020. There is actual comedy in the movie, with lines such as “why don’t you bung-a-LOW with me?” making my eyes roll so hard they got lost inside my head. But fear not, for comedy is not the only genre this movie tackles. It’s also a romance movie, an action movie, a war movie at one point, and a thriller.

So the opening scene has this woman named Sloane (Portia Doubleday) being kidnapped. Very predictably, it turns out she is part of Melanie’s fantasy for getting revenge. Sloane used to torment Melanie all the time, and Melanie had a therapist she called “Dr. Torture,” whose mouth she wanted to staple shut because of how much he talked. She wrote letters to her classmates as part of her therapy, which Sloane steals and plasters all over the school. Melanie is then rebranded as “psycho stalker girl.”

So anyway, Melanie thinks Sloane is a hologram as she is torturing her, but then realizes that she isn’t when she posts a video of Sloane having an affair on Facebook and watches Sloane’s real husband’s reaction. Then a man comes out to torture Sloane, and lo and behold, it’s Dr. Torture with his mouth stapled shut. Dr. Torture is about to cut Sloane up, but Melanie saves her by electrocuting Dr. Torture to death. My laughter overpowered the theater at that point. This is the level of writing we are talking about, and it only gets worse.

The film is honestly a blur, and there is so much other stupid nonsense that takes place that I can’t even begin to describe. Patrick gets to play Call of Duty with his dead dad. Gwen spends time with her new husband and daughter she always wanted. JD and Brax have it all, but then get held hostage by a Russian mobster. Melanie and Sloane escape, but Dr. Torture, who was supposedly killed, is alive again and trying to kill them. I look over at my friend, and our jaws have dropped as we try to make sense of it all.

It doesn’t help with how horribly edited this movie is. There is no sense of direction with any of the edits. It just cuts back and forth between five different storylines, and it’s so jarring because each one is tonally different. None of it flows at all. I also couldn’t tell how much time had passed at any point, but not because that was the intent. I’m sure at one point it was night, but then it suddenly cuts to daytime in the next scene but the stories are supposed to be occurring concurrently?

The space of the island itself felt so large and small at the same time. Like apparently people get lost there, but also they are able to find each other relatively quickly somehow? There are also no real scenes. It will go from a half-baked story point to some random filler that doesn’t develop any of the characters. There is one line where Brax jokes that Roarke had spiked their drinks, and I felt like the movie did that to me too.

I have seen a lot of movies in my time, and I have seen a lot of plot twists. The twists in these movies are up there with some of the worst ever. The first one is that the movie is, indeed, a fantasy. Michael Rooker plays some private investigator named Damon who says the island has this mystical water and rock that is able to make people’s desires become real, like bringing people back to life. Roarke is a slave to it because he wants to be with his wife, but the only way to do that is to stay on the island and fulfill other people’s fantasies.

It gets more stupid. Later on, Roarke reveals to Gwen that his wife doesn’t know who he is because she keeps dying and coming back to life for a reason I still don’t get. It’s pretty obvious the wife is his assistant, Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley), but the movie tries to subvert that for some reason even though there is a scene that shows her coughing up blood. Gwen changes her fantasy with some weird hand-wavy loophole, and instead decides that the moment she regrets most is not saving her neighbor, Nick (Evan Evagora), in a fire she started, which is just so out of left field. She also sees that JD, Brax, and Patrick are all in her fantasy.

It turns out that everyone’s fantasies are connected on multiple levels. Patrick’s fantasy leads him to the mansion where JD and Brax have their fantasy. There is a really dumb standoff where Brax is holding the pin of a grenade and threatening to blow up the mobsters. Things happen that don’t make sense. JD dies, the mobsters they kill return as zombies now, Patrick watches his dad die, and my hyena-like laughter has earned the ire of the innocent people sitting to my left trying to enjoy the movie.

So yeah, it turns out that everyone is actually a part of Nick’s fantasy because everyone there has had some hand in Nick’s death. But then it isn’t Nick’s fantasy, but Nick’s mother’s fantasy, and everyone thinks Julia is the mother. They try to get off the island, but the plane they are gonna leave on gets blown up by the zombies from earlier who have an RPG. They instead decide to destroy the rock that grants people their desires.

There are some fight scenes that are like a bad version of It. Then in the dumbest of reveals, it turns out the whole thing is actually Melanie’s fantasy all along. But that would mean she had two fantasies instead of one? I don’t know. Anyway, she had been putting on an act to save everyone apparently just so they could know her worth before she killed them all. She feels horrible that she was made to believe that she couldn’t get love because the night Nick died was supposed to be their second date or something, and she thought he stood her up. I love that this movie continues the trope of “bullied kid goes crazy and wants to murder everyone at the end.”

The movie spells everything out for you with detailed exposition, and it still makes no sense. But yeah, I lose track of things again. Somewhere in there, there is another grenade standoff with Melanie. Roarke decides to let Julia go and gives Sloane a fantasy, and she has Melanie drowned by Nick’s zombie who shows up in every predictable jumpscare this movie has. Before Melanie dies, she drops the grenade in front of everyone, Patrick jumps on top of it and sacrifices himself just like his dad did.

This is still only scraping the surface of the stupidity of this movie. I didn’t even tell you about the part where Michael Rooker literally yeets himself off a cliff to try and kill Dr. Torture for the third time. Just go watch this movie. There’s really nothing else like it, and I hope we never see anything like it again. 11/10 experience for a 1/10 movie. Congratulations Blumhouse Productions for having this masterpiece under your belt.