So far, I’ve been trying to watch horror films that were released this year. However, when I came across this one, I couldn’t resist.
Willy’s Wonderland was released in 2021 and is about a loner who wages war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family fun center.
It’s pretty much Five Nights at Freddy’s, but with Nicolas Cage.
How could you go wrong with this one?
The film starts with two people running through the backrooms of Willy’s Wonderland and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty disorienting because the camera keeps zooming in on their faces in a chaotic manner. They die and it changes to Nicolas Cage’s character driving a fast car. I think this may be the sequel to Gone in 60 Seconds.
Cage’s character is known in the credits simply as “The Janitor” and he gets stopped in his joyride by some spike strips the local children pilfered from the police. We’re introduced to the second protagonist Liv, played by Emily Tosta. We first see her trying to burn down Willy’s Wonderland. The sheriff stops her thought because we need to pad the runtime of this movie another hour.
Cage’s character sees all the missing posters at the mechanics while he’s being extorted by the mechanic. Apparently fixing a flat tire costs $1,000. Since the mechanic only accepts cash and not credit card, he asks The Janitor if he’s willing to work it off.
The Janitor nods his head, and we already can tell what’s going to happen. Turns out the owner of Willy’s Wonderland is fixing to make Willy’s great again. To do that, he’s going to hire The Janitor to fix up the place. The owner offers to pay to fix up Cage’s car in exchange of staying one night inside Willy’s Wonderland fixing up the place.
Admittedly, the character design of these animatronics is horrifying in their nostalgic look. They feel like they could’ve been real life knock offs of Chuck E Cheese. The really weird one is a life-sized Tinkerbell looking animatronic. The owner explains that the place was shut down due to children getting hurt by the animatronics. The owner says the kids climbed on them and that’s how they get hurt.
The one question I have to ask, as I wait for the Hulu commercial to run its course, is why the owner and the mechanic are conspiring to lead people to their deaths by trapping them inside.
Liv’s character was handcuffed to her radiator in her trailer home. Her friends stop by, and they go about breaking her out. The friends all know about what the locals are doing because they all want to go set Willy’s Wonderland on fire and rescue The Janitor.
Meanwhile, The Janitor actually starts going about cleaning up the place. In the background all the robots are moving. Of course, they all stop whenever Cage looks back at them. There’s one scene where Cage finds a dusty pinball machine and starts to lovingly fondle the toggles.
It’s about twenty minutes into the film when the action starts to kick off. The lights on the animatronics turn on and the ominous music begins to play. As Nic Cage mops, the ostrich robot moves toward him. Cage turns and the robot stops. Cage hits it with his mop to test it. It doesn’t move. Then the ostrich says “I’m gonna feast on yer face.”
Cue the fight scene.
I never knew that I needed to see Nicolas Cage fighting an animatronic ostrich until today. Seeing him on top of the bird beating its robotic brains to a pulp with the broken mop while grunting and yelling is really something everyone needs to experience. He even rips out the ostrich’s spine ala Predator. Covered in grease and oil, Cage changes into a fresh Willy’s Wonderland shirt.
The Janitor doesn’t even question why the robot attacked him. He just bags the body up and tries to take it to the dumpster outside. Of course, that’s when he realizes that he’s been locked in by the owner.
When the alarm on his watch sounds, he takes a break to drink one of his Punch Pops and works on cleaning the pinball machine in the kitchen.
The second battle takes place in the men’s bathroom. This time Nic Cage takes on the robotic gorilla. This fight is a visceral hand-to-hand close quarters combat that ends with the gorilla getting curb stomped on the urinal. Cage is once again doused in oil. As The Janitor takes damage, he uses duct tape as bandages and braces.
There’s one scene right after the death of the robotic gorilla that The Janitor and Willy have this silent stare down. Neither one says a word and its pure gold.
By this time, the friends have arrived at Wonderland with gasoline canisters, and they proceed to douse the gasoline all around the building. Liv is adamant about not setting the place on fire until they get The Janitor out safely. It’s a little disturbing that she actually had to argue this point. Like, shouldn’t that be the first objective prior to setting the place ablaze?
I’m beginning to wonder about who the actual monsters are in this film.
Liv somehow gets into the vents, which are huge enough to fit a robotic alligator. Liv manages to escape the alligator by leaving the vent. For some reason, the alligator didn’t follow her out of the vent. Okay, the robotic Tinkerbell is the creepier of animatronics. Liv finds her way into the fairy’s forest which includes smoke. The faerie ninja’s her way around the forest as she sings “Ring Around the Rosy” which is not creepy at all. Not one bit.
Liv’s friends hear her scream, and they argue about going to her rescue. Eventually they decide to go into Wonderland. They actually fall through the roof and into the ball pit. The kids try to convince The Janitor that everything the mechanic and the owner promised him was a lie. Liv then goes into exposition station and tells Cage the ugly, bloody truth of Willy’s Wonderland.
The truth is really crazy and bizarre, and takes a page from Chucky, but it’s actually pretty great.
If you’ve ever seen any of the Scream movies, you know that there are a few cardinal rules if you want to survive a horror movie. Well, two of the friends take some time to themselves to break one of those rules. And while they do, they find a voyeuristic alligator watching them in the corner of the Fun Time room. They recognize that it’s there and stare at them, but it doesn’t deter them from breaking that rule.
One of the friends calls the sheriff who reluctantly heads out with the new guy to go to Willy’s. While on the road, the sheriff drops a couple more exposition bombs about the fact that she knew what was happening all along.
One of the quirks about Nic Cage’s character is that whenever his watch alarm goes off, he drops everything to take his scheduled break. While on break, he drinks one of his Punch Pops and plays the pinball machine. It doesn’t matter if one of the friends is getting brutally murdered by a robotic frog. If he’s on break, he ain’t working/killing. He’s union through and through.
This quirk comes at an inconvenient time for Liv. She faces off against the robotic frog and is joined by Nic Cage. Just as they’re about to start fighting, his watch goes off. He hands her a knife and leaves to go on break. It’s such an unexpected, but funny scene choice. It also gives Liv some real action to prove her mettle.
The twist at the start of the third act is surprising. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. I enjoyed it though.
With less than twenty minutes left in the film, Nic Cage has finished the job of making Willy’s Wonderland great again (not including the holes in the roof). It’s just him and Willy now. They face off, simply staring each other down. That’s when Cage’s break starts. He’s having a grand time with the pinball machine. It’s really fun watching Cage dances to an 80’s version of Willy’s Wonderland theme song as he plays pinball.
The Janitor faces off against the true monster of the film. And it’s a glorious fight scene.
Willy’s Wonderland is my favorite film so far this month. And Nic Cage is the reason. This film is probably one of my favorites of his large list of films. There’s one quirk about The Janitor that I didn’t mention, but I think it’s best that you discover that on your own.
I highly recommend this film. Enough said.
31 Days of Horror Rankings
- Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
- Watcher (2022)
- The Cellar (2022)
- Revealer (2022)
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