Having burst his tyres and unable to pay his car repair bill, a lone traveller (Nicolas Cage) finds himself working for the night helping to clean up an abandoned children’s amusement arcade called Willy’s Wonderland. Sounds perfectly straight forward. Well, it would be, except for the creepy animatronics being possessed and eager to murder anything inside. Will the traveller survive and, more importantly, will he be able to clean up Willy’s Wonderland?
I have to admit it, the premise alone pretty much guaranteed I was going to take a glance at this digital release. Nicolas Cage, an actor who usually brings an off-kilter level of charisma to a strange premise; and this one is a fight for survival against bloody thirsty animatronics. Essentially, Nicolas Cage blended with a Five Night’s at Freddy’s game.
To be clear here, readers, it must be stressed that Willy’s Wonderland is definitely not the official movie of Five Nights at Freddy’s. Consider this flick to be something of a homage to the video game franchise by Scott Cawthon. The premise might be similar but the trailer gives Willy’s Wonderland a somewhat more zany approach to its horror settings. In comparison, based on all the YouTube reactions, there’s not that much room for humour in Five Nights at Freddy’s – unless you count Markiplier jumping out of his skin for our collective amusement.
So, on paper, this combination of zany Nicholas Cage and oddball horror make Willy’s Wonderland an appealing amusing cinematic prospect. But does it hit the mark? Well, in the frights department, it misses completely. However, there are some strange saving graces. Namely, it’s lead oscar-winning actor. Thankfully the presence of Nicholas Cage makes sure our 80 minutes with the film doesn’t go to waste. Add the surreal intrigue of Nicholas Cage not even saying a single line of dialogue in this film and letting his cleaning skills do all the cinematic talking creates a bizarre charm which makes this viewing experience more enjoyable than it really should be.
There is something so bewilderingly amusing about Cage’s character just trying to clean up the arcade and then have to deal with the absolute inconvenience of the titular Willy – a murderous weasel animatronic – and his best buds wanting to just rip Cage to pieces. How dare they get in the way of Cage just wanting to tidy up wasted food, toilet facilities and the Super Duper Fun Room!? It’s like they’re making his job incredibly hard!! They can’t eat up his time like that! He’s also got to take some breaks to enjoy an energy drink and sensually play a pinball machine whenever he can.
I am seriously not making this up.
It’s surreal, it’s odd but strangely incredibly satisfying to watch. If you kept it as a one-man show and have and Cage slowly discovering the horrible truth about the wonderland, I would have been absolutely happy.
But the introduction of a group of expendable cannon fodder – aka pesky teenagers – who are there to serve us all dollops of exposition derails proceedings when Cage isn’t doing his chores. Yes, they’re here to explain why an arcade is a dangerous place. Yes, they’re going to explain why animatronics might not be as child-friendly as they should be. But I just couldn’t give two *** about the teenagers’ plight to “save” Cage. And by the time the groups meet, Cage hardly needs bloody saving in this film! Thankfully, the teenagers serve a better purpose of being used for some gloriously bloody targets for Willy and friends. Their unfortunate demises allow the vicious machines to showcase their unique qualities before Cage nonchalantly beats every bit of oil out of the monsters.
Other than that, there isn’t anything else to Willy’s Wonderland and that’s perfectly fine. Go in expecting Nicolas Cage nonsense and some gore and this will absolutely amuse you for the brief runtime. If you’re expecting the reinvention of horror, there are other films out there worth your time. As with all Nicolas Cage films nowadays, you play the dangerous game of either watching something amazing, passable or downright turgid. Out of these three, Willy’s Wonderland is comfortably passable.
At the end of the day, the best way to really sum up Willy’s Wonderland is to compare it to the cans of the energy drink Cage enjoys throughout the film. It’s a sugary, short, bloody, nonsensical kick of gore caffeine that keeps you engaged for the 80-minute runtime just enough to enjoy it for the experience it is.
Willy’s Wonderland is available to rent on all good digital platforms now. DVD / Blu-Ray releases are due in April 2021. If you fancy giving it a go, you can watch it with Amazon Video below. By renting through the link below, Bunkazilla may earn a commission which helps with operating costs. It’s a great way to support Bunkazilla.