The mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) runs a mystical island resort. Guests come with a fantasy, and the island grants their wish. We have Gwen (Maggie Q), who regrets turning down a marriage proposal from Allen (Robbie Jones), Melanie (Lucy Hale), who wants to humiliate Sloane (Portia Doubleday), because she bullied her in high school, and Patrick (Austin Stowell), who wants to enlist in the military with his deceased dad (Mike Vogel). Brothers Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and J.D. (Ryan Hansen) want to “have it all,” which involves a big house with an armory and a panic room and models of both sexes (Brax is gay). But since it’s a horror movie, everyone’s wishes have horrible consequences.
It’s based on a show from the late ’70s which was not horror, but apparently Mr. Roarke could have been supernatural and did seem kind of evil. The whole series was created basically on a whim. The movie isn’t especially scary or even very graphic–except one scene when a character’s eyes pop. There are occasional jump scares, but really it’s more like a supernatural action movie.
I expected it to play out like a slasher movie, with a clearly defined final girl (the white one, natch) and the rest of the cast dying off one by one. I was wrong. The characters aren’t cheap EC comic villains, greedy and immoral; they’re decent people who are full of longing for the past. Just about all of them are likable. Sloane, who starts out as a real butt, turns out to be a badass fighter. Refreshingly, all of the women are smart and resourceful. Even Brax and J.D. are pretty great, despite their constant high-fiving and millennial patter.
The movie has multiple unexpected life lessons, like not holding on to the past and letting go of an idealized version of things. “Regret is a disease,” muses Mr. Roarke. Most of the characters are battling self esteem issues and work to overcome their self-condemnation. As Damon (Michael Rooker), a private investigator hiding out on the island, says, “Only you can fix you.” Even the powerful Mr. Roarke struggles with the notion that people often must do what they have to do, not what they want.
On the whole, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something fun and action-packed rather than horrifying.