Willy’s Wonderland: A Self-Aware Camp FestBy RodneyHatfieldJr for Reviews
If no one else will say it, I will. Nicolas Cage deserves an Oscar. I have said it, and now it is in the universe. But let me explain; it isn’t for the usual run of the mill reasons for receiving an Oscar, but because he gives me hours of enjoyment and some of the most outlandish moments in film (Admit it, we all use memes and gifs from his films).
Now let's review his latest entry. Thanks to the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series, “children-themed animatronics running amok” is developing its own subgenre of horror. The latest to borrow the Chuck E. Cheese-style(or maybe Banana Splits) setting and let loose its murder animatronic characters upon unsuspecting victims is Willy’s Wonderland. Thankfully instead of relying on the boring and extremely overused jump scare formula, we get slasher fun. Then we add in its self-aware schlock horror 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. With that said, don’t expect much in the way of plot or logic. Nic cage turned it up to 11 and fought a bunch of Chuck E Cheese animatronics on bath salts. It reminded me a lot of Ash VS evil dead. If Nic C wasn't up for it, Bruce Campbell would've been a shoo-in.
As for the plot, it is pretty simple. Cage plays The Janitor, a quiet loner speeding through a small 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. Cage needs to clean it, and the tire repairs are free. With a shrug of acceptance and a fridge full of canned beverages(I’m kinda confused with this, maybe he’s a diabetic), the Janitor gets to work. It becomes evident real quick that he’s meant to be a sacrifice to the demonic animatronics that spring to life each night.
Willy’s Wonderland is a throwback to the grindhouse/70s-early 80s visually. Using a washed-out, muted palette. Even the opening credits are in a Mono font meant to give a retro VHS vibe. And it works, it enhances the low budget quality. The best part is it wastes no time getting straight to the action and knows precisely what type of movie it wants to be – a self-aware campfest aiming for entertainment. No scares. No subtext. No characters with rooting interest or depth. Just goofy junk food served up with a soundtrack played by a demonic animatronic band that reminds me of the tunes from Season of the Witch. So if you want a zany, over the top action horror comedy murderfest, then this movie is for you.
Now for the two things wrong with the film. True the movie belongs to Nic, but the problem is he doesn’t have any lines. None, zilch. I was thinking maybe he was like Eastwood in his westerns and only speaks a few times. Nope. Sorry fans, no Cage one-liners in this one. The Janitor remains enigmatic for the entirety. If you’re hoping for an explanation for his easy-going nature or clockwork drinking habit, well you’re out of luck. The other thing is the backstory of the demonic Chuck E Cheese robots. How, why, and when.
I will admit, the enjoyment will vary vastly depending on where you fall on the horror humor spectrum and your Nic Cage-tolerance level. For myself, the briskly paced, Cage running amok, and buckets of blood spilled; that is entertainment.