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Friday, February 12, 2021

[Review] Nicolas Cage-Starring Horror-Comedy ‘Willy’s Wonderland’ is a Self-Aware Cheese Fest

Thanks to the trendy Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series, “children-themed animatronics running amok” is slowly developing its own subgenre of horror. The latest to borrow the Chuck E. Cheese-style setting and let loose its killer animatronic characters upon unsuspecting victims is Willy’s Wonderland. Instead of relying on the jump scare-heavy formula of its inspiration, however, this horror-comedy leans in hard to its self-aware schlock humor. That it’s another vehicle for Nicolas Cage to deliver another eccentric performance means you’ll know before you hit play if this is for you or not, but don’t expect much in the way of plot or logic.

Cage plays The Janitor, a quiet loner speeding through a rural town when road spikes blow out his tires. Moments after assessing the damage, a tow truck driver conveniently swoops in to save the day. He can replace the tires for a grand but won’t accept cards, and there’s no ATM. The tow truck driver instead offers a trade; if the Janitor stays overnight in the local family fun center, Willy’s Wonderland, to clean it, the repairs are free. With a shrug of acceptance and a fridge full of canned beverages, the Janitor gets to work. It becomes evident that he’s meant to be a sacrifice to the demonic animatronics that spring to life each night, but it’s them that should be afraid of the Janitor.

Directed by Kevin LewisWilly’s Wonderland isn’t a visually appealing movie. With a washed-out, muted palette and opening credits in a VCR OSD Mono font meant to imbue a retro VHS vibe, it instead enhances the low budget quality. Much of the action-horror sequences are shot in a frantic, choppy way that often obscures what’s happening. Screenwriter G.O. Parsons doesn’t bother with worldbuilding, details, or even plot. It’s a pretty simple story full of logic gaps and clunky dialogue. Still, it wastes no time getting straight to the action and knows precisely what type of movie it wants to be – a self-aware schlockfest aiming for pure entertainment. That’s it. No scares. No subtext. No characters with rooting interest or depth. Just goofy junk food served up with an earworm soundtrack played by a demonic animatronic band.

As for the animatronic characters, they don’t matter much. They show up on cue to attack both the Janitor and the teens that break in to save him, but there’s no real personality or distinction between them as much as the film wants you to believe there is. The demonic beasties don’t even get to hint at why they inspire terror in town before the Janitor is dismantling them with ease.

This movie belongs entirely to Cage, and the actor doesn’t even utter a single line. The character actor doesn’t need dialogue to command your attention; his screen presence and quirky choices are more than enough for Cage to carry a film. A particular dance number presents the biggest highlight of the film, and it’s oddly satisfying to see Cage clean. The downside to this mute performance, though, is that the Janitor remains enigmatic for the entirety. If you’re hoping for an explanation for his easy-going nature or clockwork drinking habit, well, that’s too bad.

Willy’s Wonderland sounds like a great idea on paper, but its execution falls flat. Worse, it can be extremely repetitive. Watch the Janitor clean, get attacked, rip the thing to shreds, then clean up that mess. Rinse and repeat. Enjoyment will vary vastly depending on where you fall on the schlocky humor spectrum and your Cage-tolerance level. With a briskly paced runtime, Cage running amok, and buckets of blood spilled, there’s some entertainment to be found within Willy’s Wonderland, but it’s all surprisingly empty and forgettable.

Willy’s Wonderland released on PVOD February 12, 2021.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3651840/review-horror-comedy-willys-wonderland-self-aware-cheese-fest/

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