In 2018, Jeff Wadlow released Truth or Dare, which seemed like his attempt to join in on the massive hype train of Blumhouse at the time. Despite the almost unanimous trashing by critics and people in the film community alike, I still went to see it, hoping I’d find some enjoyment. Truth or Dare was actually a pleasant surprise. It’s not necessarily good, but it’s one of those movies so bizarre that you can’t help but have fun with it (I’m not ashamed to say I put it in my top 25 that year). Naturally, when I heard about Fantasy Island, I was really excited—despite reviews being catastrophically bad—I knew what this was going to be and saw it as soon as I could.
Fantasy Island is genuinely even more ridiculous than Truth or Dare, I’d go as far as to say it makes that film look normal. It’s got that early 2000s-level cheese going for it, and it feels like it was written by someone who did a whole lot of drugs after binging all seasons of Lost. I wasn’t aware of the original show until after, so it didn’t affect my viewing experience in any way; for all intents and purposes,I went in blind. Almost immediately you feel like you know exactly what kind of movie you’re going to get. Some of the acting and dialogue feels so awkward and dated, or like some bad TV movie that’d be on SyFy at three in the morning. The first fifteen minutes or so worried me, because I’d always prefer something downright horrible rather than something boring and riddled with cliches. However, once the plot gets moving, there’s a huge shift into total idiocy. Characters make horrible decisions, the plot becomes completely nonsensical, and the movie becomes more ridiculous by the minute, culminating in a third act that barely even feels real. You wouldn’t believe me if I even attempted to try and explain its convoluted plot. Needless to say, I was having the time of my life.
Generally speaking, I think movies like this create a healthy balance when compared to the countless comic book movies and more self-serious awards films. Sometimes it’s okay to go see a movie that isn’t connected to some existing universe or competing for Best Picture. I see nothing wrong with choosing to watch something you know will be fun to laugh at, even if it doesn’t have a great score on some fraudulent meter on countless sites. Consider it the occasional chocolate bar to your already well-balanced diet – it won’t kill you, but of course it’s frowned upon. The reactions to these types of movies seem to be all the same, people taking them far too seriously or thinking that enjoying something like this would get their imaginary card for film knowledge revoked. Movies like Wish Upon, Truth or Dare, The Book of Henry, The Bye Bye Man are all terrible “on paper” yet are all wildly entertaining when not taken seriously in the slightest. There’s a common misconception that when watching a movie you have to look at things objectively, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. If the jarring character interactions of The Bye Bye Man make you laugh, you should embrace that. Granted, it’s very hard for me to rate some of these movies—I have Wish Upon (which is terrible) at three stars out of five—but realizing that this stuff isn’t black and white helped me embrace my weird taste for trashy horror in the past few years.
Fantasy Island is definitely something I’d put into that category. It’s got so much drinking game potential and just an overall absurdity that could be a great time with friends, something we only get almost once a year. It was also crazy to watch in a semi-packed theater, and feel the wave of confusion amongst the audience as the movie draws closer to its chaotic conclusion. I’m so glad this ended up being what I hoped it would be. I just wish we could embrace these types of movies more instead of treating them like the easy targets they are. I’ll always look forward to them, and Wadlow is 2 for 2 in my book.