Remember video game Five Nights at Freddy’s, in which a couple of animatronics go haywire in some Chuck E. Cheese sorta looking family restaurant? Well, you could say this is the unofficial movie adaptation of that game. Who better than Nicolas Cage to fight these robotic bastards that are supposed to look cute, but are actually creepy AF. Willy the Weasel welcomes us to spend a satanic night with his furry friends in his very own Wonderland.
Director Kevin Lewis‘ horror comedy is an action packed thrill ride with a splash of terror. Stranded in some remote town in Nevada with a car that won’t work and no way to pay the local repair shop, a nameless man (Cage) agrees to spend the night in an abandoned amusement park full of animatronic characters that were once a joy to the kids of the town, but now have become murderous monsters. They’re out for blood, but it’s only one night – how hard can it be to survive? When a gang of annoying teenagers breaks into the park to burn it down, the possible kill count suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.
The premise sounds pretty wild, but never goes as bonkers as I had hoped for. Especially considering Cage’s latest films, you’d expect to see him go mad as hell, but without any dialogue, he just stomps, fights, destroys AND cleans for the full 88 minutes. He does a great job at brutally grabbing your attention and keeping it. The surroundings he finds himself in is of top notch quality, which definitely works in the film’s favour. Even if the majority of mainstream movie watchers won’t like ‘Willy’s Wonderland‘, this has everything to be crowned the next cult classic and once again with Cage in the lead.
The animatronics used in the film aren’t state of the art robots, but are in fact actors in mascot suits, who do a great job at moving in such a way it becomes unsettling. The action doesn’t take very long to kick off when Ozzie Ostrich decides to confront our overnight visitor, with gruesome consequences for our feathered foe. Their pitch black blood sprays all over the place when Cage pulls a robotic spine out of one of his adversaries, while the local sheriff gives her trainee a quick history lesson on what really went down 25 years ago in Willy’s Wonderland. This backstory I personally found the most intriguing part of the film, as it gives it all a more realistic and serious feeling.
Made with a rather small budget, Willy’s Wonderland is pretty well made. Lewis makes sure to use clever camera angles and some annoying POV shaky cam to distract from the surroundings. To then add a layer of creepy demonic innocence to the whole with catchy children’s tunes being sung by these killer robots makes it worth sitting through, even though the fight sequences are brief and repetitive resulting in a somewhat underwhelming finale.
Willy’s Wonderland is most entertaining when it plays around with the animatronics, where its scariest moments are the ones rooted in reality. With a killer dance off backed up by the lyrics “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, this inevitably becomes yet another outrageous Cage cult flick.
Signature Entertainment Presents Willy’s Wonderland Home Premiere on Digital Platforms 12th February
Review – ‘Willy’s Wonderland’
Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), February 12, 2021. Rating: Cert 15. Running time: 89 min.
PRODUCTION: (UK) A Signature Entertainment release of a JD Entertainment, Landafar Entertainment, Landmark Studio Group, Saturn Films production. Producers: Nicolas Cage, Grant Cramer, Jeremy Davis, Bryan Lord, Michael Nilon, David Ozer. Executive producers: Tamara Birkemoe, Mark Damon, Scottland Olds Harbert, Seth Needle, Adam Rifkin, Jake Seal.
CREW: Director: Kevin Lewis. Screenplay: G.O. Parsons. Cinematography: David Newbert. Editing: Ryan Liebert. Music: Émoi.
CAST: Nicolas Cage, Caylee Cowan, Beth Grant, Emily Tosta, Terayle Hill, Grant Cramer, David Sheftell, Mark Gagliardi, Chris Schmidt Jr., Taylor Towery.