If the overwhelming majority of the feedback is to be believed, Fantasy Island’s tagline “All fantasies come at a price” is accurate. However, it would appear that the price of a ticket is your dignity.
Fantasy Island opened in fourth place at the box office with an estimated $12.9 million, and surprisingly, no Thursday preview screenings which always inflate the reported opening night ticket sales. This fact raised many red flags, even before the critical and fan reactions were released. which proved to be a waking nightmare for Sony and Blumhouse.
Fantasy Island currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score as diminutive as Herve Villechaize, clocking in at 9% (with a 0% score from top critics). Fans were somewhat more forgiving, giving the film a current audience score of 47%, but those polled by Cinemascore on opening night gave Fantasy Island an abysmal C- (but if you’re looking on the bright side, it did avoid the dreaded F that both The Grudge and The Turning received this season).
Critical assessment of Fantasy Island contained a number of choice cuts. Jim Judy of Screen It! said “The only thing the film had me fantasizing about was going back in time to either fix the issues or simply pull the plug on the project.” Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers suggested that “If crimes against cinema merited prosecution, Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island would go directly to death row. The only scary thing about this wussified, fright-free horrorshow is that it wants to spawn sequels. Stop it before it kills again.” The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips had the most fun with his review, calling Fantasy Island, “Four intertwining fantasies, four stories’ worth of lame ideas, poorly executed. Call it “De-Plane Crash.” Call it “The Island of Dr. No-Thank-You.” Call it “Worstworld.”Call it “The Butterfly Effect,” with a dead butterfly and no effect.”
Aside from critics, more importantly, many horror fans scratched their heads when it was announced that Blumhouse was in production on a horror take on Fantasy Island. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, co-writer Chris Roach and star Michael Pena both addressed some of the challenges. Roach said “A lot of people — I know I felt this way — have this idea of Fantasy Island that’s a little silly, probably because it was on back to back with Love Boat. But the truth is the show had a lot of very dark episodes. It was very Twilight Zone in nature. And as the seasons went on, it dealt with a lot of subject matter that really lent itself to horror, so it seemed like a natural fit.”
Peña was surprised by the small budget (in the $7 million range) and was disappointed that the promotions department didn’t kick into gear. Pena stated that “It’s low-budget so it was like, no trailers. I couldn’t get used to that, to be honest with you. If we do another one I was like, ‘You’ve got to give us a trailer, bro.’”
With the small budget (even after the promotional and marketing costs are added to the production budget) Fantasy Island should make back costs on the US release, and turn a small profit for Sony/Blumhouse.
Check back next week to see if 2020’s horror slump continues…