Lucy Hale and Jeff Wadlow on keeping horror fresh in ‘Fantasy Island’

By Kaleena Steakle, Contributing writer

Jon Kopaloff / Stringer via Getty Images
(Right) Lucy Hale stars in “Fantasy Island,” written and directed by (left) Jeff Wadlow.

Reuniting for a second time after 2018’s thriller “Truth or Dare,” writer and director Jeff Wadlow and actress Lucy Hale come together for their latest supernatural mystery, “Fantasy Island.”

Inspired by the 1970s TV show of the same name, this grim version follows guests at an island resort who are told their darkest fantasies can come true. But when the outcome becomes warped, the guests must follow a number of clues and solve a mystery in order to escape the island.

Hale and Wadlow spoke to the Chronicle about how to keep the horror film genre alive.

CHRONICLE: Having worked on a couple of projects together, and having a television background, what are ways that each of you challenged yourselves to find fresh and exciting elements for this genre to keep your audience engaged?

WADLOW: The way I challenge myself? I mean, look—making a Blumhouse [horror film production company] movie is a continuous process of being challenged. There’s never a moment where you’re not being challenged in some capacity. I would say what I try to do is look for surprises on the set. I always show up every day with a plan, so that if everything goes to s–t, I at least … have a plan I could rely on. But I still want to be surprised. … My favorite moments in every movie I have ever worked on are moments I did not plan.

HALE: Yeah, the most unexpected things are surprises.

WADLOW: There’s a moment in “Fantasy Island”—I won’t give too much away because it’s a bit of a spoiler—but there’s a piece of coverage that was on [actor] Michael Peña where the camera operator tilted down and did a crazy close-up of Lucy and it was so close, and she delivered the line and I don’t even know if she knew she was on camera.

HALE: I always deliver, Jeff.

WADLOW: You do, you always deliver. And it was one of my favorite moments in the film.

What about you, Lucy, how do you keep it fresh on set?

HALE: How do I keep it fresh? Like Jeff said … on “Truth or Dare” we’re hustling the whole time, we’re trying to make our day. There’s so much to get done in a little amount of time. … It’s always fresh and new and you don’t know what is going to happen, whether it’s good or bad. It just is what it is. But I think with “Fantasy Island,” in particular, [which was filmed in Taveuni, Fiji] we’re in a climate and a new place where most of us had never been before. We’re trying to dodge rainstorms and we’re hiking up mountains and there are bugs and people are getting sick and we just didn’t know what was going to happen. That element was enough to keep it fresh. But from a character standpoint, Melanie is unlike any other character I’ve played before. She’s very complex, layered, damaged and tormented. I loved stepping into her head a little bit. That was a challenge for me because our moral compasses are so different. Accepting the things she was doing and saying was the biggest challenge for me because never in a million years would I do the things that Melanie did.

“Fantasy Island” was released Friday, Feb. 14. 

Kaleena Steakle is a junior filmmaking major. Though originally hailing from the Chicagoland area, she spent 12 years living in Texas and is happy to be back in her hometown. She writes this column in the hopes of getting students interested and excited about movies by learning to view them critically.