'Fantasy Island' Review: A Nightmare of a Reboot

If crimes against cinema merited prosecution, Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island would go directly to death row. It defies common sense why Blumhouse, the company that boasts Get Out, The Purge, and Paranormal Activity on its horror roster, would put its stamp on this pathetic imitation of scare cinema. The idea was to jam horror jolts into the old Fantasy Island TV series, which dabbled in the supernatural when it wasn’t ripping off The Love Boat by stranding D-list guest stars in clichéd stories. ABC’s Fantasy franchise, which ran from 1977 to 1984 (B.C. to millennials), starred Ricardo Montalban as the mysterious Mr. Roarke, and Hervé Villechaize as his diminutive French assistant Tattoo, who would run up to a bell tower and shout, “Zee plane! Zee plane!” every time new guests arrived on their Pacific island to see their fantasies come true — for a price, of course: 50 grand.

No one pays in this rebooted version, except audiences. All five passengers are winners of a TV contest to realize their fantasies on a gorgeous island (it’s Fiji!). All five are — surprise — hot bodies with deficiencies in the brains department, since they barely question their host, Mr. Roarke, now played by a white-suited and way overqualified Michael Peña, and his assistant, Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley), when the pair warn about being careful what you wish for.

Douchey Bradley (Ryan Hansen) and his gay stepbrother Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) just want to party like it’s spring break forever, man. Career exec Elena (Maggie Q) craves a second chance to accept a marriage proposal she rejected five years ago. Cop Patrick (Austin Stowell) longs to be a soldier and fight alongside his dead father in combat. And Melanie (Lucy Hale) wants to exact torture-porn revenge on bullying high-school mean girl Sloane (Portia Doubleday). A wussified PG-13 rating means none of these scenarios can deliver as much action as they might promise on the surface. Did the filmmakers go back to the future and learn how a hard R-rating doomed the box-office hopes of Birds of Prey? For whatever reason, in this thrill-free rehash that reaches career-crushing lows in writing, directing, and acting, lame is the name of the game.

It’s hard to believe that director Jeff Wadlow (Truth or Dare) needed two co-screenwriters, Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs, to cobble together this padded twaddle. Their claptrap script hardly qualifies as a first draft. A machete-wielding psycho, played by Michael Rooker, runs around the island connecting the stories, and trying to chop everything to bits. Is he the real author of the screenplay? Wadlow’s lazy excuse for a movie hits a brick wall of incoherence long before a climactic twist that’s been telegraphed from Scene One. The only genuine, blood-curdling scream incited by this stupefyingly dull time- and money-waster comes at the end, when the notion dawns that Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island is meant to spawn sequels. Stop it now, before it kills again.

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