By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — Film fans looking for the cinematic equivalent of rich Corinthian leather will be sadly disappointed by the muddled horror flick “Fantasy Island” (Sony).
This attempt to transform the ABC drama series that aired in the late 1970s and early 1980s into a dark chillfest turns out to be an incoherent mess.
Under the supervision of supposedly mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena), the manager of a luxurious tropical resort, an ensemble of guests lives out a variety of dream scenarios, all of which, of course, take unexpected turns.
Among them is once mousy but now sassy Melanie (Lucy Hale), out for revenge on Sloane (Portia Doubleday), the bully who made her high school years miserable, and lonely Gwen (Maggie Q), who’s in search of the happy family life of which she secretly feels unworthy. Slacker adoptive brothers JD (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) just want to party, JD with babes in bikinis, gay Brax with Speedo-clad hunks.
There are respectable messages underlying some of the story lines. Melanie, for instance, learns that she needs to forgive and move on, while JD isn’t the shallow hedonist he at first appears. But the ramshackle nature of the proceedings makes it nearly impossible to take the picture seriously.
There’s some supernatural hooey about how the island itself, rather than Mr. Roarke, is in control of everyone’s destiny. And there’s some kind of magical black water that keeps leaking everywhere. Oh, and a mystical stone too, for good measure.
Ultimately, director and co-writer (with Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs) Jeff Wadlow’s movie makes for a dreary slog and exudes an air of desperation as it lurches toward its conclusion. So viewers ill-advised enough to embark on this lumbering flight of fancy will soon want to deplane.
The film contains some stylized violence, including gunplay, with minimal gore, a few gruesome images, drug use, mature references, including to homosexuality and promiscuity, fleeting partial nudity, a couple of mild oaths and at least one rough and several crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.