Willy’s Wonderland (2021) Review
If the plot of the new Nicolas Cage movie Willy’s Wonderland sounds familiar it should, we saw the humans versus killer animatronics plot a few months ago in The Banana Splits Movie. This time they’re demonically inspired and picking off anyone dumb enough to spend the night in the abandoned restaurant where a satanic cult used to sacrifice unsuspecting families.
So why would anyone spend the night in there? In the case of The Janitor (Nicolas Cage, Color Out of Space, Primal) he doesn’t have much choice. It seems his brand new Camero blew out all four tires on a misplaced set of stingers. And the town’s only mechanic doesn’t take credit cards. Oddly enough, all the town’s ATMs are out of order as well. But, he’s offered a deal, clean up the now abandoned Willy’s Wonderland, and he can have the tires in payment.
About the same time, Liv (Emily Tosta, Mayans M.C.) is caught trying to burn the place down. She’s sent home to her stepmother (Beth Grant, Grave Intentions) who happens to be the town sheriff who chains her to a pipe in their trailer. It isn’t long before her friends rescue her, however, they’re going to wish they hadn’t as they find themselves caught in the middle of the battle between The Janitor and Willy the Weasel.
Director Kevin Lewis (The Accursed, Malibu Spring Break) and writer G.O. Parsons have created a film that badly wants to become a cult film. But, as one of the film’s producers Adam Rifkin (The Dark Backwards, Director’s Cut) could have told them, that has to happen organically, it isn’t something you can intentionally create.
As The Janitor, Cage is the mysterious stranger taken to an absurd degree. We know he’s a badass before we even see him, courtesy of what he’s driving and the military dog tags hanging from the car’s rearview mirror. When we do see him, he’s all beard, boots and sunglasses. He keeps cleaning even after being attacked by a robotic ostrich, And he doesn’t say a word throughout the whole film.
Given how obnoxious most of the rest of the cast is, keeping him silent may have been a good idea. Thankfully apart from Liv most of them are just there to give the creepy critters somebody to kill. And it’s hard not to cheer their deaths when they do things like sneak off to have sex in the room where the original killings took place.
While the deaths are fairly gory, the constant fast cutting and jerky camerawork during both the killings and the film’s action scenes is annoying and takes away much of their impact. That and some obvious CGI spray, blood from the humans and oil from the creatures, spoil what needed to be the centrepieces of Willy’s Wonderland.
Attempts at humour, like Cage walking away and leaving Liv to fight Siren Sara (Jessica Graves Davis, The Tomb, Home Sweet home) because it’s time for his break, don’t help either. Intercutting her fighting for her life while he plays pinball might have seemed hilarious on paper, but it’s jaw-droppingly stupid on film.
Willy’s Wonderland could have been a fun bit of tongue-in-cheek survival horror, and I suspect Cage’s more rabid fans will still enjoy it. But, just as Jiu Jitsu felt like a cheap cash-in on Beyond Skyline and Skylines, this feels like a bad rip-off of The Banana Splits Movie and the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game franchise that inspired it.