Now streaming–Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island a surprisingly good reboot of 1980s TV

Fantasies rarely play out as you would expect.  — Mr. Roarke

You could have guessed from the trailers that Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island would cross the original 1977-1984 series with Black Mirror, but could you have guessed it’s also a sort of mash-up with The Dark Crystal and The Hobbit?  Bloodshot, Kick-Ass 2, and Bates Motel writer Jeff Wadlow directs an unexpected twist on the original series, proving such a reboot that respects the source material and takes advantage of a big movie budget can be successful, even without original show staples like Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize.  One of the stronger attempts and biggest successes at remaking a classic TV series, Fantasy Island is now streaming on Starz and other platforms.

But is this a reboot or a sequel or something else?  The writers don’t let you know until the final scene, meaning audiences will always be guessing what is really going on.   Ant-Man co-star Michael Peña steps into Montalban’s role as Mr. Roarke, host of the island where anything can happen.  But where is his assistant Tattoo?  That’s something you need to watch for.  Parisa Fitz-Henley (Luke Cage) takes to the assistant position like Julie on The Love Boat, ushering into what feels a lot like a Sandals resort those familiar “guests” arriving via seaplane: Maggie Q (Nikita) plays a character with a fantasy to undo a piece of her past, Lucy Hale (Katy Keene, Scream 4) plays a character who wants to get revenge on a bully (Mr. Robot’s Portia Doubleday) she believes ruined her life, Austin Stowell (Colossal) wants to know what it’s like to be a soldier, and Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars) and Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians) are unlikely brothers looking to have it all.

Questions you may have asked (or never even thought of) about the original show get answered.  Odds are, if you saw the movie in the theater right before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, you went to the theater knowing this was going to be a B-movie remake like CHiPs, Starsky and Hutch, Dukes of Hazzard, and Charlie’s Angels: a tribute more than a loyal effort to enhance the original.  In actuality what viewers will see is a movie with the hint of the new Jumanji movies, but a darker vibe.

Of course, the best feature in any film with Michael Rooker is Michael Rooker.  Here he plays a mysterious character who may hold the secrets behind the island’s strange power to grant wishes.

It’s a better attempt at trying what movies like 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie did before it, not as good as 2005 The Fog and 1987 Dragnet movies and current Magnum, p.i. series remakes.  But it’s a solid entry in the modern horror genre, most like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but with nods to elements in Friday the 13th and Halloween.  Just in time for this coming Halloween, check out Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, now streaming on Starz, and available on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Vudu.


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