‘Fantasy Island’ review: oddly fright-less horror reboots ’70s classic to mixed results

A visit to the remote location is still worth the price of admission

A hit show with a killer premise, in 1970s’ American television drama Fantasy Island guests lived out their wildest fantasies on a remote island with the help of an enigmatic proprietor, Mr Roarke, and his sidekick, Tattoo.

Two feature films and seven TV seasons were squeezed out of this simple concept, but in 1984 Fantasy Island closed for business. Apart from a short-lived revival in 1998, the idea was left well alone. Until now.

With the backing of Blumhouse Productions — the company who sprinkled magic dust over the likes of Get Out and The Purge — director Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) has resuscitated the island of dreams with an added supernatural horror twist.

In keeping with tradition, his posse of punters touchdown onto the paradisiacal rock with wish fulfilment on their minds. Melanie (Lucy Hale) wants to wreak revenge upon her school bully; Elena (Maggie Q) wants to revisit her past; Randall (Austin Stowell) wants to live out his military dreams; and frat boy step-brothers Bradley (Ryan Harrison) and Brax (Jimmy O Yang) want to party at the shindig to end all shindigs.

They are led into their respective experiences by Mr Roarke, played by Michael Peña, whose inscrutable demeanour matches the blank canvas of his white linen suit. As time ticks on, the collection of characters, initially separated by differing motives as well as divergent experiences, become increasingly involved in one another’s fantasies. The meticulous structure of the screenplay tangles their paths purposefully and at brisk pace towards a full-blooded climax.

Fantasy Island
Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell and Michael Peña in ‘Fantasy Island’. Credit: Sony

Whereas the original series administered lessons of morality, director Wadlow is not concerned with playing God. He wants viewers to buckle up and enjoy the ride. Peculiarly, the biggest failing of this picture is neither the story nor its mechanics, but the lack of horror. Maybe the spooks were spooked, but it is hard to find much in the way of frights anywhere in its 110 minute runtime.

Despite failing in the scare stakes, Fantasy Island is still enjoyable, packed with schlock and awe and b-movie thrills. It may have a lightweight popcorn tone, but brains lurk underneath the hood of this glossy and oddly gore-less horror. The island is once again open for business – and it’s worth a visit.


  • Director: Jeff Wadlow
  • Starring: Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Charlotte McKinney
  • Release date: March 6