THE RESORT (2021)
Written and Directed by Taylor Chien
Available on digital and on demand now
Available on Sky Store, Virgin, iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft Store, Google Play, and Chili
A group of friends surprise Lex, a horror novelist, with a surprise trip to the abandoned holiday resort on Kilahuna Island off the coast of Hawaii for her birthday. With tales of the resort being haunted, with disturbing occurrences leading to the hotel being shutdown not long after it opened, Lex spies plenty of opportunity for the visit to inspire her next project and is overjoyed by her birthday treat. All four set off to the island to explore what supernatural secrets the island could be hiding, including the legend of the Half-Faced Girl who’s said to haunt one of the rooms, but have they bitten off more than they can chew?
Sun-kissed horror THE RESORT is a supernatural tale that explores the idea that you’ll find exactly what you came looking for when faced with a haunted hotel. It’s just a shame it doesn’t live up to its full potential.
The film starts off strong as we see the four friends make their way to Kilahuna Island, the once tropical paradise and destination hotspot turned cursed isle. As no-one ventures to that side of the island much, the characters don’t bump into any locals to warn them off but they are told that a boat will be arriving in the evening that is their only way off the island as the private helicopter pilot insists he’s only interested in dropping people off on the island and not collections, which is a strange thing to offer. Not that it deters nervous flyer Lex nor her friends who are keen to explore the island and see what supernatural mysteries they can uncover.
The guys and girls in THE RESORT are a likeable bunch and it’s fun to hang out with them as they discuss the island’s haunted hotel resort whilst sampling the delights that the tropical island has to offer. Sam, played by Michael Vlamis, is without a doubt the joker of the group as he spies any opportunity to get his arse out but he’s not one of those punks you want to smack; he’s just a little mischievous. Thankfully he is part of the character lineup because the rest of the characters, including lead character Lex, are rather dull in comparison. Bree is the bimbo-esque type character who’s only interest is in posting selfies and photos to social media whilst bearded hunk Chris is a quiet and contemplative kind of guy who may have feelings for the serious, spook-obsessed author, Lex. Despite their lack of depth, they’re still a pleasant group which makes a change as a lot of horror films have characters who can be divisive or have bad traits, which isn’t a problem here.
When the friends reach the abandoned hotel, the excitement about the opportunity that this grand complex can provide reaches fever pitch as a viewer. This, for me, is a horror fan’s dream. Much like my view on abandoned hotels and cruise ships, a holiday resort offers up plenty of scope to frighten the viewer and build up the tension. Unfortunately, whilst it’s good at the latter initially, THE RESORT fails to execute the scares it so desperately needs. Relying on one villain, coined the Half-Faced Girl, with very little else going on except for an episode with a security vehicle, the film gets boring very quickly. Characters succumb to attacks but their friends don’t react in the way you would expect. Scenes feel rushed as the terror is being ramped up except it doesn’t quite have the desired effect on the viewer. An Hellraiser-esque scene attempts to chill the viewer to the core but instead its shock tactics just fizzle out despite some neat FX. Such opportunity to fully exploit this marvellous setting seems to have been missed as the film descends into a weak spookathon that could genuinely be set anywhere and still struggle to make an impact.
As the film is shot in the way of flashbacks, and our main character Alex is relaying her story to a police detective, we already know the fate of her friends early on in the film. Whilst some movies work well relying on flashbacks, this one didn’t quite do it for me but I understand why this option was taken otherwise the film wouldn’t have worked in the way the filmmakers wanted it to.
I will give the film some credit for its fresh idea. I’m absolutely in love with the location and concept of a haunted, abandoned, exotic holiday resort. For me, ‘Kilahuna’ is truly the ‘character’ that steals the show and it’s easy to see why writer/director Taylor Chien felt captivated by it and was fortunate to be able to shoot there before the resort was demolished. However, it seems like this perfect, ambitious setting is more of a missed opportunity as the story and horror element struggles to send chills down your spine.