It's odd when you run across a film like THE FANTASIST (1986) that isn't at all good but also isn't totally bad either. It's so wrongheaded about the elements that it has in place and so ham-handed in it how it handles them that it feels like no one was aware of how to guide the story. There are all the elements needed to craft a truly intriguing character study crossed with a horror movie and yet what we end up with is such a clumsy mess.
For fully the first hour there is no narrative cohesion to the story. Tonal shifts are the standard, characters are ciphers and the idea that's trying to be committed to celluloid seems to scurry away into the corner every time the camera was turned on. Characters often speak to each other as if there's some previously known understanding between them that we are not privy to. It's strangely arch and nonsensical all at the same time with the supposed driving force of this “thriller” languishing in the background, rarely popping its head up to juice things along. The movie often feels like a barely connected series of scenes that have just been scattered randomly around to give the impression that a story is somewhere underneath everything. The narrative is never really fully formed giving no real reason to care about anything. And then once the killer is unmasked (or actually unmasks himself) we are left with the only interesting section of the movie which is the final twenty minutes. This plays wonderfully but points out ever more sharply just how confused and pointless the previous hour has been.
Most of the trouble just comes down to poor directorial choices. These include several scenes where competent actors are left hung out to dry and allowed to do things that should have been left on the cutting room floor or used as a secondary take for possible coverage from a different angle. This is the first time in a while that I've actually been embarrassed for an actor in the middle of a performance on film and it was pretty cringy.
This being Robin Hardy’s much delayed follow-up film to the classic THE WICKER MAN (1973) it is a disappointment to say the very least. I can now say I've seen all three of his directorial efforts and his average ain’t great. There is only one good film to the man's name sad to say. Granted, his first film was brilliant but this thing is a tone-deaf mess. Making things worse in my opinion is that it's clearly a movie that could have been very good but it needed a much tighter hand guiding things and a much more focused script. Only recommended for the curious.