April 30, 2021 The Resort (Movie Review)
The urban legend of the Half-Faced Girl leads a group of friends to Hawaii in The Resort, a new Horror-Thriller offering that arrives to select theaters and On Demand beginning Friday, April 30, 2021 thanks to Vertical Entertainment.
Written and directed by Taylor Chien (G.S.I.: Ghost Services International short 2007, Cornered 2011), The Resort has a fairly common premise: to celebrate a birthday, four friends arrange a trip to the Hawaiian islands. But this vacation is also intended as a foray into urban exploration, focusing on the infamous Kilahuna Island. Here, a multi-million dollar resort was built on cursed land, only to shut its doors forever not long after opening. The now abandoned hotel complex is off limits to the public, as it is said to be haunted by the Half-Faced Girl.
After touching down in Hawaii, the group is quick to head out on a hike to a scenic waterfall on, you guessed it, Kilahuna Island. Intrigued by the allure of the abandoned resort, Lex (Bianca Haase: Hot Tub Time Machine 2 2005, LA to Vegas series) is eager to photograph the site—even if it means missing the boat back to the mainland. Initially, with hours to spare, her friend Bree (Michelle Randolph: A Snow White Christmas 2015, The Undertaker’s Wife 2021) is supportive, as is her love interest Chris (Brock O’Hurn: Too Close to Home series, Boo 2!
A Madea Halloween 2017), while jokester Sam (Michael Vlamis: New Girl series, Roswell, New Mexico series) is just along for the ride—and the booze.
But once the friends walk beyond the “Do Not Enter” signs and head straight for the infamous Room 306, their trip goes from uneventful to tragic. Racing against the clock to meet their ride, but suddenly aware that they are not alone on the island, the foursome soon begins to reevaluate their belief in ghosts.
Once we enter the islands, The Resort starts out with some similarities to 2009’s A Perfect Getaway; a vacation story that we know is destined to take a dramatic tumble off a cliff. Much like the latter film, its cinematography is solid and the Hawaiian scenery is to die for. Even the manufactured story of the Half-Faced Girl, while not entirely original, shows promise. But the film’s brief runtime of 70 minutes, coupled with its poor decisions, ultimately condemn the entire production to mediocrity.
Its biggest issue clearly stems from its pacing. Chien moves the story along with such vigor that he never pauses to fully introduce or develop his characters. It’s not until the second act that we even manage to discern all four of the friends’ names, and forget any background or development, because, as far as this story is concerned, these people exist solely to go on vacation and get mauled; they are little more than tropes. Haase’s Lex is the smart yet pretty brunette, while poor Randolph’s Bree is the vapid blonde. Vlamis’ Sam is the obnoxious jokester, while O’Hurn’s Chris, a cross between Chris Hemsworth and Jason Momoa, is the man candy who makes googly-eyes at Lex. Helicopter pilot Andy Bumatai (Raven series, Marker series) provides the requisite ominous warning, and the necessary villain, Nayeli Morales‘ (Face Off series, A Quarantined Christmas 2020) Half-Faced Girl, is far from terrifying.
This also means that you will not find the languid build toward lip-chewing suspense or white-knuckled tension that is present in a good Horror-Thriller. The group explores much of the resort in the bright sunshine, only to end up trapped just as the cliché rainstorm rolls in. Though a splendid first kill might have offered an ounce of hope, or at least disrupted the status quo, this too falls unceremoniously flat thanks to a lack of ingenuity.
Similarly, the framing device that is chosen—one that puts Haase’s Lex in the hospital post-traumatic incident—is so exhausted as to be trite. Could it have worked? Sure. However, while Haase’s acting during the pivotal resort scenes is well-done and convincing, her ability to relay the trauma and emotion that goes with seeing your three friends brutally murdered right before your eyes is lacking. Sharing these scenes with the actress, Dave Sheridan (A Terrible Beauty… TV movie documentary 2013) likewise suffers; appearing a bit too nonchalant to be a detective. However, it’s his final scenes that help to self-sabotage nearly everything the film has attempted to build, which, admittedly, is not the fault of the actor, but a really bad decision made by the writer-director.
It would be nice to say that it is hard to see where The Resort went wrong, unfortunately, the film’s issues are as clear as a sunny day on Maui. From its lack of detail and development stems the bulk of its issues, from a generic title and a central location without a name, to characters that are so thin that it’s nearly impossible to become invested in their survival. So the true disappointment here is in knowing that so much of this could have been easily resolved, particularly if Chien would have slowed down and extended his film’s runtime. There are a few good moments, namely a scene that features Randolph singing a truly eerie “Happy Birthday,” but overall The Resort fails to be the bloody good summer escape that it sets out to be. As it stands, Cryptic Rock gives the film 2.5 of 5 stars.