Is This Island A Fantasy Worth The Price?

 

Fantasy Island Poster

            It was an interesting television show back in the day, an island that can grant you any desire you want, though at a price.  Welcome to Fantasy Island and the second review of the day is all about the wonderful world of Blumhouse modernizing the classic plot.  Robbie K is back with another look at the silver screen wonders to determine is this trip to paradise worth the scares or not to dare as he reviews:

 

Movie: Fantasy Island (2020)

 

Director:

Jeff Wadlow

Writers:

Jillian JacobsChristopher Roach

Stars:

Lucy HaleMaggie QPortia Doubleday

 

 

LIKES:

  • Good Pace
  • Nods To References
  • The Satisfying Visual Appeal
  • Funny At Times
  • Better Character Development Than Expected
  • Some Twists
  • Michael Pena

 

DISLIKES

  • Most Characters Still shallow
  • Plot Twist is Okay
  • How Random The Island’s Gimmicks Are
  • The Sudden Change Of Plot
  • How Forced The Comedy Is At Times
  • The Rushed Ending
  • Not Scary

 

Blumhouse knows how to churn out the horror movies like a gumball machine, where they come out a quarter a ball and sometimes have no flavor at all.  Fortunately a recurring theme that I like to see is that the movies do go at a decent pace, entertaining and fun to capture a variety of attention spans.  Fantasy Island is a quick paced adventures that tries to juggle “original” stories while still keeping to the feel of the original series.  I appreciated the nods to the references in this movie, some very well integrated, others forced and not as satisfying.  One thing I think many people agreed was that the film immerses itself in the superficial pleasures movies have taken on, mainly in the form of bikini clad hot people, handsome perfect matches, and those oh so satisfying horror elements that etch in our minds.  It’s all about the Pleasure Island effect and for the younger generation it works.  This is also true with the comedy, a movie that does little to integrate wit and wonder, instead going into those reality TV tropes that MTV made famous and latching on to them.  It was funny for me at times, but overall a bit stale and forced.

Yet I’ll give them props that they managed to defy my expectations and give better insight into characters than I anticipated, primarily in three characters whose stories ran a bit deeper than the G-strings the extras wore.  I tried to grapple on to these characters for the most part and figure out if there was a deeper connection to the story over all.  This does not happen that often either, but the movie got me with a few twists and while not my favorite, I have to give them points for surprising me.  My favorite thing would have to be Michael Pena though.  While not the best acting job he has done, I think he inherited the island’s owner role well, and makes for an interesting piece in what could be a series.  I’m not sure where they will take him, but he has that cool, collected charm that is both comforting and deadly at the same time.  He makes for a complex character, who holds many secrets that unfortunately were not fully delivered on for me.

 

Now in terms of what is decreasing scores, that comes in the form of the incomplete and sort of left wing twist they pulled into this film.  First of all, despite trying to develop the characters, they did not quite deliver the full force of development that I think they were going for.  Most of the characters start to represent certain character paradigms, but these political charged issues get swept under the rug for more superficial fun and “horror”.  Even the ones with a deeper well of development sort of become flaky figures whose indecisiveness is more annoying than fresh for this reviewer.  As they try to resolve their character flaws, the after school special approach kicks in to not give a satisfying finish, but instead just bluntly finish the film.  Forced humor does not help make things better, with so many tropes from two of the characters becoming annoying as they fall into the new generational tool bag approach that somehow keeps selling.  The comedy to relieve the “tension” of the film does not work for me and felt unnecessary at times.

Much of this has to do with that plot twist, a curveball that was thrown to offset the stagnant pond, only to cause ripples in wrong way.  It’s a forced introduction to justify the interconnected stories and sort of becomes an eye rolling experience when everything is explained.  It’s because of this twist that the plot of the movie changes, going from horror mystery to action mystery that does little to embrace the alluring wonders this island might have.  Even the plan to handle the island changes three to four times, showing potential indecisiveness or panic at trying to force this twist into the film.  And because of the change in the horror approach, the island’s gimmicks, the things the trailer was using to rope you in, start to become cheesy pieces/obstacles who only serve to push the characters to make bad decisions rather than become the character developing pieces they want.  It’s almost like watching someone cheat on a video game, where the goal is not so much to win, but to survive until the movie’s time runs out.  This lazy finish to a buildup that seemed interesting and further dilutes both the story and scares.

This brings me to the last two points.  First the ending of the film feels very rushed. The twist getting forced at the end sort of discombobulates the pace of the plot and as the waves are settling, the directors seemed to want to quickly tie it up to not go past two hours.  The piece meal finish is not very suspenseful and the quick wrap up only has some relief from the heart string pulling shot that comes in the final moments of the film.  Yet the biggest thing is, the scares of the movie are rather null and void.  Fantasy Island has little in terms of bone chilling terror or mentally scarring moments, again forced to dilute these components to keep the PG-13 rating.  It’s this lack of scares that sort of makes the movie boring and thus, I had wished they had gotten a little more creative with their gimmicks the way Scary Stories did back in August. 

 

The VERDICT: 

            Is this movie as bad as a 22 on Metacritic?  I don’t really think so.  Fantasy Island falls into the trend of making a superficial movie that has all the gleam to attract you with little sustenance to keep you nourished.  It’s a great opening horror movie for the younger generation to wet their feet, as it attempts to get some relatable issues on the table, add a small amount of character depth, and still give the “thrill” of the chase.  Yet where the movie falters is in its ability to really tie this adventure together, managing to put a twist into the film, but not in the artful form to pull everything together.  Even worse, the movie’s rushed ending and lack of scares just makes this an MTV television series with a more bloated budget.  While the performances do their best to handle the characters, there is not enough meat to this islands presentation to say it’s the best horror movie, but there are enough special effects gimmicks that can make a night out with friends worth the theater visit. Otherwise hit this one up later on down the road when it hits streaming.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Horror:   5.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

 

Do You Dare See This Film

Truth Or Dare

 

Another weekend, another horror movie to arise in the dim lights of the theater.  This weekend, the big advertised thriller of young age adults versus the paranormal has reared its superficial prettiness in hopes of generating big bucks.  While the trailers have painted a very skeptical picture, but you never know what lies beneath the snippets edited in the trailers.  Robbie K here with the third review of the weekend, bringing some thoughts and observations on the latest films to hit the silver screen.  Let’s get started with this review of:

 

Film: Truth or Dare

 

Director:

Jeff Wadlow

 

Writers:

Jillian Jacobs (screenplay by),  Michael Reisz (screenplay by)

 

Stars:

Lucy Hale,  Tyler Posey,  Violett Beane

 

 

LIKES:

Good Pace:  Horror movies are a mixed bag of either being too slow or too fast.  Truth or Dare is fortunately one of those that seems to hit just the right speed to allow for everything to pan out as it should be.  This reviewer appreciated the brisk pace brought about by the pressure of the game, adding some slight edge and mystery as to when the next challenge would arise in a rather predictable plot.  Yet, the movie still took the time to allow their characters to semi-flesh out their issues and dive a little deeper than their superficial looks.  A nice balance is always nice to see.

 

Pretty Cast:  Pretty faces go a long way in this business, and Truth or Dare is chock full of attractive puppets set to potentially meet their doom.  This Abercrombie and Fitch models will be pleasing to many eyes, which does a lot of heavy lifting in the beginning to accommodate the typical montage.  And even throughout the drama, the looks will garnish more attention than the acting itself.  Still, the costume and casting get two thumbs up for fashioning a target audience relatable ensemble.

 

Decent Acting:  While the looks are certainly a big picture, the acting is still semi-decent alongside the directing.  Most of the cast actually deserves some props for fashioning characters that didn’t make me cringe or wish they would dieHale in particular was my favorite, using her talents to craft a very versatile character capable of being relatable to. Once more a portrayal of morals vs self-preservation, the lovely young woman more than delivered a stellar performance that evolved as her character adapted.

 

A Unique Concept:  The Truth or Dare game that is deadly might seem cheesy, but it wins points for originality in my book.  A simple child’s game (that can get out of control sometimes) as a device of death opened up creative avenues of potential fatality that kept things interesting.  While a little over the top at times, (though not as bad as Final Destination), it was cool to see this dynamic stay consistent and the strategy for how to get around the traps set forth.

 

DISLIKES:

Character Development:  The movie had a good start and a device to drive growth, but sadly that growth was fairly diluted for much of the characters.  Most of the cast were still shallow teens with drama that did nothing more than paint massive targets on their backs, falling into the slasher formula that many seem to enjoy.  While the game did drive some things to change for the two leads, the movie could have benefitted from a little more branching out.

Story Takes Some Dives:  The story actually held some gold nuggets in terms of quality, but that quickly dulled into fool’s gold as the plot elements dippedThe twist behind the games lethal forces, the other players who had the more sinister characteristics, and even the solutions were hinted at times only to be dropped.  More suspense and thrills could have been accomplished had they expanded on this category.  They started to clean it up at the end with the solution to the problem and the tension that came with it, leading to a rather engaging ending, but the middle of the movie could have used this treatment.

Rushed Deaths:  Some of the kills in this movie are intense bouts of our “heroes” racing against the clock to stop the game’s effects.  These kills are the more engaging, changing the odds to a more even split on their survival.  Others, are merely cheap wrap ups that the teenage group seem to drink up, which is a little disappointing at not delivering on the potential that was there.  Perhaps for the shorter attention span of the modern age, but still could have been better than what was presented.

Idiot Syndrome: Where A Quiet Place held realism, fear, and logic, Truth or Dare sadly falls victim to the famous idiot syndrome where the characters brains are absent after the first scene.  While this isn’t true for all characters, many of them seem to have their logic components absent during much of the film.  Why this annoying trait can’t be teased out a little more makes no sense to me, but the old stick continues to make for an annoying component that takes away from the characters, degrading them to MTV reality status.

 

The VERDICT:

            Truth or Dare falls victim to the cliché of teenage horror syndrome, in that is a gimmicky display of airheads going up against an unstoppable supernatural force.  True, it does have an original medium to terrorize our actors through, pretty cast with decent acting, and a good pace to entertain, it falls shy of being an epic horror.  It’s good for the teenage and young adults target audience, but for an audience as a whole this movie is better left for renting than anything else. If only the MTV syndrome could have been avoided, because this quality is what dilutes an otherwise engaging premise.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0