Willy's Wonderland follows a wordless man (Nic Cage) who is forced to perform janitorial duties overnight in a haunted kids play place/restaurant in order to pay for repairs on his car. When a group of teens (20-somethings?) break in as well and the animatronic cast of the kids restaurant comes to life with vicious intent, the man must decide between fulfilling his cleaning duties or saving the group from the demonic robots.
[This movie was viewed on Hulu at the time of this review.]
Willy's Wonderland Review
There is one thing for certain...no matter how ridiculous the role, Nic Cage never phones it in. As we are all aware, Cage has been taking on plenty of roles that feel like they are better suited for a no-name actor rather than somebody who was an A-list actor in the 90s and early 2000s. But it seemed like ever since his meme-inducing performance in The Wicker Man remake, his career had been on what appeared to be a downward spiral of low budget, direct-to-DVD, and/or guaranteed flop films.
But rather than disappear into nothing, Cage embraced this new chapter in his acting career and has discovered a new realm of fandom that can only be found in the cult horror arena. And so now we get to appreciate this acting legend in awesome horror gems like Mandy, The Color Out of Space, and now Willy's Wonderland. While I would say that the aforementioned Mandy and Color Out of Space were more objectively good films (though housing their fair share of camp), Willy's Wonderland contains a similar level of charm that can only be achieved with Cage in the lead role.
In this film he doesn't speak, yet his on-screen charisma is at an all-time high with his hilarious antics involving cleaning supplies, a pinball machine, energy drinks, and of course killer animatronics. His deadpanned face and nonchalant attitude remains hilariously steady throughout the runtime, whether he is murdering possessed robot animals or trying to get a high score on the pinball machine during his self-enforced work breaks. The hilarity takes a step up when the lives of a group of teens are on the line and his attitude moves from mildly irritated at the bothersome killer robots to now frustrated he has to try and keep these kids alive on top of it.
So as he dispatches the animatronics like a stone-cold badass, the rest of the cast lays out the ludicrous plot so we aren't left in the dark about the Five Nights at Freddy's wannabes. Not that we really care though, as long as we get more of this animatronic mayhem with Cage getting sprayed with a black substance that must be some blend of oil and demonic blood spewing from the robots.
The blend of CG and practical effects really adds to the fun. Heavily focused on practical effects, the film cleverly introduces glimpses of low-budget CG to allow the monsters a little more movement. The glimpses are tight enough that the weak CG doesn't become a hindrance to the action and balances well with the practical effects. Obviously it's not good enough that you can't tell if you're watching it with any semblance of attention, but it's good enough that I'm not at least asking the question, "why bother with CG at all if it's going to be this bad?", as I have asked myself this question on countless horror films before.
Willy's Wonderland doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest and it's better for it. The scares are limited because the goofiness and over-the-top ludicrous happenings prevent too much tension from building. Cage himself is so tough that he quickly removes any fear established by the twitching animals as they come to life. This film feels like a horror-comedy for horror fans and in my opinion it delivers as a popcorn flick. Because that is what I believe it was intended to be, I think it was a rather big success.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 6/10
Film Quality: 5/10