Willy’s Wonderland is a horror/comedy film that was directed by Kevin Lewis, releasing in 2021. The film stars Nicolas Cage as a mysterious drifter simply known as “The Janitor”. His car breaks down when the wheels go over a spike strip in the middle of the road. He is picked up by mechanic Jed, who takes him to Willy’s Wonderland, a once-successful abandoned family entertainment centre. Owner Tex offers him to work as a night shift janitor in exchange for repairing his vehicle.
While the Janitor begins his cleaning duties, Tex and Jed leave until the next morning, but not before leaving him locked in the building. The restaurant’s now-withered eight animatronic mascots — Willy Weasel, Arty Alligator, Cammy Chameleon, Ozzie Ostrich, Tito Turtle, Knighty Knight, Gus Gorilla, and Siren Sara — are revealed to be alive and aggressive. Ozzie Ostrich attacks the Janitor, who beats Ozzie to death with a mop.
Elsewhere, teenager Liv Hawthorne is handcuffed by her caretaker and sheriff due to her previous attempts to set Willy’s Wonderland on fire. Soon after, Liv’s friends come and release her. Liv intends to burn the place down but the janitor being inside presents an obstacle.
Willy’s Wonderland is a lot of fun. I really appreciate the effort that went into making Willy’s looking as authentic as possible, it’s fantastic. They even made real merchandise and an annoyingly catchy theme song. The animatronic creatures all look great. I felt they captured the feeling we’ve all had about weird mascots that are designed for children. They’re meant to be these overly cutesy characters but there’s something creepy about them.
Kevin Lewis must think Nicolas Cage is the coolest, most badass motherfucker in the world and is he wrong? Cage’s performance is a real highlight. Mainly because he doesn’t say a single word throughout. All of his acting comes from expressions and the occasional grunt. He even throws in some of that trade mark eccentricity that only Cage can pull off. Simply put, seeing him tear through the robots is something I’m not sure I would ever tire of.
Where Willy’s Wonderland really succeeds is the simplicity of the idea. It knows what it wants to be and it achieves that with only minor flaws. It would have been nice to learn more about the janitor and why he can do the things that he does. However, the film makes a point of keeping him a complete mystery so you can’t really call that a flaw.
One thing this movie is lacking is gore. There are plenty of decapitations and sprays of black oil but that all involves the robots. It does introduce some fodder but their deaths are lacklustre and could have been more creative. Also, I’m not really sure how to feel about the film tonally. It feels serious at times and over the top and comedic at others. Is this a horror/comedy? I guess so. However, considering Cage is as Wacky as possible it doesn’t really succeed in the comedy department.
I though Liv was a pretty weak character. She doesn’t react exactly as I’d expect someone to considering the events. Also, her lack of reaction to her friends being killed is a bit strange. Finally, her backstory makes sense but it isn’t very well developed and needed something more, possibly a scene where she properly confronts the sheriff. Talking about the sheriff, there had to be a better solution other than feeding family’s to the robots? She must have felt like a right idiot when a guy turns up and destroys them all with his bare hands.
Overall, Willy’s Wonderland delivers something a bit different. If you know what you’re getting before going in then there’s nothing to be disappointed about. For what it is, I really enjoyed it and would watch again.
The Final Score - 7.5/10