Fantasy Island (2020)

“I’m too old for this shit.”

It’s not just a famous line from a classic movie – it’s an entirely too apt description of me these days. It’s not enough that I pursued my PhD in Professional Wrestling, the only PhD of its kind in the world. It’s not even that I’m a connoisseur of the fringe of media, a true expert in the freaky and forgotten movies and TV shows of our past and present. It’s that I’m somehow the one that’s in charge of the assorted oddities that make up The CineMasoCast. Well, and having to deal with Mike.

Mike is the good sort, though. A kindred spirit. A grungy, rough-around-the-edges soul that’s happy to cater to my sometimes off-the-wall requests. As I sat at my desk today, I never thought I would be able to just give someone like him a quick call about acquiring a copy of Felidae for me, or even that someone would know what that is. But here we are. Even if I do have to put up with his unusual level of snark, he’s probably the only person who gets me.

If only he could help me with this group, though. I swear. Baylie doesn’t seem to know that she can listen to her granddad’s tapes through headphones, or at least with the volume below a dull roar. Belladonna’s cackling and that damnable cat of hers bouncing off the walls. Though I am lucky enough that my office is on the opposite end of the place from Crystal Dawn and her loud proclamations of love for Michael Bay.

But, I digress. I am here to discuss Fantasy Island. You can’t imagine the trepidation I felt, walking to the Screening Room. I sighed, a lot. I just loved the TV show so much that I didn’t want to be disappointed in this new take on it. If they could do it some small bit of justice, I would be okay. But, still…I had some concern. I even paused a moment to try to figure out what Blair was batting around her mistress’ room this time. “I should just pull the Band-Aid off,” I think to myself and shuffle on down a bit further. In much less time than I was hoping to take, I found myself getting quite comfortable in my seat and starting the show. 

“Hey, man,” I hear the disembodied voice of The Phantom as I press play. “My latest opus is on your desk.”

I fumble the remote to press pause, “You know, you could always just bring it to me here.” I’d welcome the distraction.

All I get is a curt, “Nope,” out of The Phantom. So, I sigh and get on with my watching. You see, while I don’t give too much credence to “professional critics,” it still happens sometimes that when a property you love is critically panned, you begin to wonder. What if they did it wrong? What if what I enjoyed in my youth has been changed and corrupted and no longer resembles that which I remember? I mean, despite all my doubts, it was still a box office success, so it couldn’t be too bad, right? Right?

It starts just like one of the episodes would. We meet the players: Patrick (Austin Stowell), step-brothers JD (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang), Gwen (Maggie Q), and Melanie (Lucy Hale), who have all won some contest to visit Fantasy Island, a resort where dreams come true. Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) invites them each in turn to accept their fantasy – Patrick enlists in a war to honor his late father. JD and Brax just want to party like celebrities. Gwen accepts the proposal for marriage from an ex-lover from long ago. Melanie wants revenge on the girl who bullied her all through school (type-casting much?) But they start to figure out not all is right upon the island. Melanie figures it out first, as she realizes her bully (Portia Doubleday) was actually kidnapped and being tortured. The two escape and connect with Damon (Michael Rooker), a PI who was hired to investigate this strange island. From here, everyone’s individual fantasies collapse as they realize they’re all part of someone else’s fantasy, one in which they all die. I will admit that it seems a bit contrived. 

You know, there was a television reboot of Fantasy Island in 1998 that was a much darker show than the original. Mr. Roarke was portrayed by Malcolm McDowell, and featured an island with more blatant supernatural shenanigans than its original run. I just rewatched a couple of episodes on YouTube recently, believe it or not. This movie seems to have taken more from it than the original show, and that’s not a bad thing. It even looks like they used the locations and sets from that show.

After a bit of a bumpy ride, I made it. Credits are rolling, and my mind is trying to put together what it just witnessed. It feels like a mixture of a Blumhouse film and the original Fantasy Island TV series, with a lot of the ‘98 reboot thrown in. I like it. All the individual stories feel right for a Fantasy Island show, but the revenge story for that final act seems like the writer was attempting to be clever, but just missed the mark. They marketed this movie as horror (which is what Blumhouse is known for) but most people don’t remember that the TV show could be just as dark as a horror movie sometimes. Of course, the ending sets up for a sequel, but if there isn’t one I’m still satisfied.

I really wasn’t expecting to say this, but I really enjoyed this new take on Fantasy Island. If you have never seen the original show or the reboot, I can understand not liking it. It is, at times, a jumbled mess of storytelling. But, it was an enjoyable ride for those of us who are already used to the concept.

Now that it is over, I gotta ride into Town with Crystal Dawn to get my DVD from Mike. Hopefully she doesn’t kill me in that damned Trans Am…

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