What to Watch Verdict
In the jungle, plenty of listeners can hear you scream—but that doesn't matter when a movie like 'The Resort' fumbles its scares.
🌴 The greenery is pretty.
🌴 One rad practical effect.
🌴 Horror ain't there.
🌴 Narrative is predictable and drab.
🌴 Characters are written thin.
🌴 Half-Faced Girl is half-assed CGI.
The problem with The Resort is...well, there are a lot of problems. Taylor Chien's one-way ticket to Hawaiian Hell is an uneven seventyish minutes that muffs its paranormal paradise purgatory. Maybe because of a hospital bed narration tactic that despises mystery, or perhaps thanks to one gruesome facial skinning that undercuts every other incomparable CGI effect comparison. Hottie chicks and hunky boys ignore malevolent folklore and experience karmic damnation like you've seen a billion times before. There's no differentiation from lacking horror atmospheres, especially considering the film's relatively ineffective employment of "Half-Faced Girl," lookin' like some pixelated long-lost third cousin of Two-Face.
Lex (Bianca Haase) is an author who explores haunted themes, and for her birthday this year, she receives the chance to explore an abandoned—supposedly packed with ghosts—Hawaiian hotel. The architectural skeleton of a once-luxurious island resort closed after only two years after guests reported strange happenings, especially in the infamous Room 306. If true, Lex's next project could include personal accounts thanks to friends Bree (Michelle Randolph), Chris (Brock O'Hurn), and Sam (Michael Vlamis), who organize the getaway trespassing trip. What they find, of course, will punish their curiosity.
Everything about The Resort is seen-it-before, suffered-through-it-before formulaic horror that so very detrimentally misunderstands pacing. Chien's screenplay is lopsided and bloated with bikini gazing under waterfalls and dialogue that lands flat until Liz's quartet finally reaches Room 306—even then, horrific interludes take their time. Then characters start dying or transforming in rapid succession until finale closure takes the smash-cut approach towards climactic reveals. It's so much fleshy-sexy fluff and abrasive character work until a ghoul makes herself known even though Snapchat filter SFX work is better left hidden behind shadows. In simplicity, the movie misunderstands the most gleaming aspects of successful horror cinema.
Granted, there's one gnarly Hellraiser adjacent skin-flaying prosthetic application that looks damn good for a movie this underwhelming. Otherwise, Half-Faced Girl shambles into frame like Samara's inebriated and lesser-terrifying doppelgänger, which is markedly more visually acceptable than when we glimpse her digitized deformity. The story claims Half-Faced Girl was an island native brutally hanged and maimed by tourists visiting the resort, hence her unrested soul lurking the attraction that wooed her murderers—but there's nothing memorable beyond her origin. Once we behold Half-Faced Girl? There's an attempt at something disfigured and maniacal, but again, animation struggles to do much more than layer a fisheye lens atop the monster's left-or-right side.
With characters who aren't stereotypes like "The Insta Model," "The Drunk Dudebro, and "Thor, Literally Thor" (Google fitness instructor Brock O'Hurn), maybe The Resort fares better. As is, we're stuck listening to existential conversations spoken by cardboard cutouts of Abercrombie models, who run the gamut of tropes from taking helicopters into spooky-legend island boundaries to putting everyone in danger because you forgot your bag in the haunted hotel room. That's after lines like, "This is the exact part in a scary movie that pisses me off." At least The Resort is self-aware? What it's not is detailed, defined, and engaging enough to leave us alone with valiant explorers in swimwear who break every horror rule imaginable for narrative's sake.
Did I mention the story is told from Lex's perspective while in a hospital bed talking to an investigator, and she cues flashbacks with setups that spoil, out loud, when bad things will happen? Momentum evaporates, suspense a memory. Messages about supernatural beliefs and afterlife debates try to dash a smidge of psychological impact, but it's surface-shallow. At least location scouts earn their paycheck by setting exotic palmed foliage and securing the massive shuttered hospitality structure?
The Resort wants to drop viewers into a ghost-hunter scenario that loses control with frightening captivation but doesn't showcase any necessary means. As vacation horror, it's splish-splashy and too invested in the decorative vacation details. As "Don't Go In There" horror, it's numbingly mundane and lacking the ingenuity to machete new paths through dense subgenre foliage. As outright haunted territory horror? Scares are scant, monsters not all that monstrous, and nightmares must have taken the boat back to civilization because this overnight sure lacks moments that'll gnaw at your nerves. Horror rises from trauma and colonialism of a different form, but it's the Margaritaville brand that's all imitation without authenticity to medium, comparisons, or objective.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.