I didn’t have high expectations for this film. When I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked like another run of the mill take it or leave it horror films. Then, I saw the Rotten Tomatoes score of 9% and prepared myself for something worse than I expected. After seeing Fantasy Island, I can say that the ultra low score is unwarranted, it’s not that bad. While it’s not atrocious or unwatchable, it has it’s issues and isn’t deserving of a watch in theaters. This is one of those films best saved for a rental or when it comes out on streaming.
Most of the cast gives this their best shot, with a couple exceptions. I like Lucy Hale most of the time and she does fine here, I can’t say I was blown away by her performance but she didn’t hurt anything. Ryan Hansen plays exactly the type of character I was expecting him to play, his character here is a slightly less dumb version of his character is Friday the 13th. Michael Pena is one actor I’ve never cared for, and I’m sorry to say that this film didn’t change my opinion one bit. He just comes across as tired and lazy, he never makes me care about his character, not in a good or bad way.
The real stars here and the cast members that deserve praise are Maggie Q and Austin Stowell. Q is a talented actor and she made me believe her role and care about what happened to her. Stowell makes the most out of every bit of his screen time and just like Q, makes me care about his character. Overall, the cast is mixed, with a few that really make the most out of this and then a couple that just fall flat (sorry Michael but it’s true).
The plot of this film has me a little conflicted because while there are a couple interesting twists that I appreciated, there are several times where the path is lost and the direction becomes muddled. About hallway through I thought to myself: alright where are we going here? I also had to remind myself why this certain thing was going on because there’s just a lot happening towards the middle and it’s easy to forget the rules that have been set up. When I’m struggling to keep up with what’s happening and start to think things like wait why are they here and what’s the point… then there’s some writing issues.
With that aside, there are some interesting scenes and plot details I didn’t see coming. I honestly didn’t anticipate the one main twist this film has to offer because everything seemed so run of the mill and I just figured the direction of the plot would stay predictable. I did like the twist and that was the one time the film actually impressed me and moved beyond being average. Also, I didn’t recognize this while watching the film but afterwards as I was going through it in my head, I realized that there’s a good bit of the first half that ends up being pretty pointless by the end. Besides having some genuinely talented actors and an unexpected twist, another positive here is the cinematography. The look of the island and its emanates is all truly beautiful. There’s also just a general sharpness to the visuals which is pleasant to look at.
This film isn’t able to escape that cringe worthy comedic banter that’s often shoehorned into horror-thrillers like this. When we’re first introduced to the characters, there’s a lot of light hearted dialogue and it’s meant to be amusing but its not because you can tell they’re trying way too hard and it comes across as cheesy and dumb. Hansen’s character in particular is guilty of this and I wish films like this would either stop this kind of thing or at least try harder. There’s also a few moments that are meant to be touching but they seem very awkwardly out of place. There’ll be a lot of action and life threatening situations but then let’s stop for a forced heart warming moment and I felt like interrupting and saying yeah let’s just not. If these moments were earned and came across as genuine it would be a different story but this script isn’t capable of that.
Fantasy Island has a couple very good actors, an interesting twist, and beautiful visuals, but also suffers from some writing problems and a few lackluster performances. This is a mixed bag and for that reason I suggest skipping it in theaters but giving it a look on streaming or when it’s available for rent.