The Curator of Schlock #328 by Jeff Shuster

Fantasy Island

Bad, Blumhouse! Bad!

Jervis is a liar! I pick the lock on the basement door (as I am a master of unlocking) and slowly creep down there during the wee hours of the night while Jervis is fast asleep. What do I find in the basement? Ain’t no canned peaches down there. Instead, I find a red velvet lined oak coffin filled with something like ashes. Hanging from the ceiling is a meat hook. I don’t what this is all about. I’m going to get to the bottom of this.

Tonight’s movie is 2020’s Fantasy Island from director Jeff Wadlow. This is a Blumhouse production, a studio known for cranking out budget horror movies that make big bucks. Fantasy Island reportedly cost about 7 million to make, but drew in over 47 million during its box office run. Not a bad take. Still, Fantasy Island was critically panned upon release. Perhaps, this was due to the fact that they took a kitschy 70s television series and turned it into a horror movie!

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I have to admit that I was never a big Fantasy Island fan. I was way too young when it was on, but would catch snippets of it on occasion, fascinated by the debonaire Ricardo Montalbán, who’d I’d only known as the terrifying villain from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Fantasy Island wasn’t for me. Too romantic and sentimental for a boy wanting to see starships shooting at each other. But now that I’m a bit more seasoned and while Fantasy Island still isn’t for me, I don’t begrudge its fans or their enjoyment of the show. Is there a Fantasy Island equivalent to Trekkies? I don’t know. If there is, they must be flipping their shit right about now.

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So the premise of the movie is that guests arrive at Fantasy Island after filling out a questionnaire detailing their deepest desire. The owner of the island, Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña), will make the fantasies of each guest come true. For Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), it means saying yes to a marriage proposal she regrets turning down. For step brothers Brax Weaver (Jimmy O. Yang) and J. D. Weaver (Ryan Hansen), it’s a wild party filled with sex, drugs, and dubstep. For Patrick Sullivan (Austin Sowell), it’s getting the chance to be a soldier and prove to himself that he’s not a coward. And for Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), it’s getting revenge of her middle school bully, a woman named Sloane Madison (Portia Doubleday).

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Melanie’s fantasy is the most interesting. She goes down the hotel elevator to a hidden basement room. Behind a one-way mirror is none other than Sloane, strapped to a chair. Sloane can’t see Melanie, but Melanie can see Sloane. At Melanie’s disposal is a console with all sorts of buttons and switches. Melanie delights in electrocuting Sloane and pouring toilet water over Sloane’s head. Another button posts a video to social media of Sloane cheating on her husband. It’s all in good fun. After all, that isn’t really Sloane behind the mirror. It’s all holograms and other visual trickery. That’s what Melanie thinks until she realizes from one of the videos shows Sloane being on Fantasy Island and that is indeed her in that torture chamber.

I don’t know who this movie is for. So far it’s playing out like a light version of a Saw movie. The other fantasies progress. Gwen now has a husband and four-year-old daughter and Patrick gets to meet his long deceased father. But little do they know that they are actually a part of someone else’s dark fantasy. There’s a twist. One of the guests is not what they seem. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’m only glad Ricardo Montalbán didn’t live to see this. I wonder if if there will be a Fantasy Island II.


Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.