Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

I want you all to know that I tried. Around the middle of September (after watching Malignant) I took a break from horror movies. The plan was to go without until October, when I’m going to start the same thing I did last year where it’s nothing but horror movies every weekday, with a franchise running throughout the month (last year was October of the Corn). But I’m a horror junkie, man! It’s my favorite genre! So I’m starting the spooky spirit early with Willy’s Wonderland, a horror comedy starring Mr. Nic Cage. It’s dumb!

You ever hear of Five Nights at Freddy’s? No? I… I’m convinced you’re fucking with me, but the gist is it’s a game where you spend the night in a spooky Chuck E Cheese restaurant and are hunted by the animatronic animal mascots. It was enough of a cultural milestone that a movie is in the works, but is taking forever so at least two films with the same premise–The Banana Splits Movie and this one–came out first. In Willy’s Wonderland, Nic Cage is a nameless protagonist who spends the night in an abandoned “family entertainment center” named Willy’s Wonderland–primary mascot being Willy Weasel–in order to get his car fixed. But it’s all a trap, because the robotic characters are alive and crave blood and/or souls! Turns out the place was run by satanic serial killers and they did a Child’s Play-like ritual before the cops could take them out, transferring their souls into the robots. While the body count these evil animatronics have racked up is incredibly high, they got nothing on Cage and his desire to clean the place with as few distractions as possible. I mean, he does take a soda break seemingly at the start of every hour, but I can’t fault him for that. You go ahead and tell me that you’d never do that on the clock with literally no one watching you, then I’ll call you a liar. Oh, and there are also some teenagers, but they’re mostly there to make just the worst decisions possible and die in gory ways. It’s dumb, but that fun kind of dumb where you don’t feel like your time was wasted.

What’s your favorite Nic Cage quote? “NOT THE BEES!!” from 2006’s The Wicker Man is a classic, but for some reason I keep coming back to “OPEN IT!! OPEN IT!! OPEN IT!!” from The Trust. If you don’t have one yet, I can safely say that Willy’s Wonderland won’t add any noteworthy options–Cage is silent throughout the film. Sure, he grunts a couple times when beating the ever loving fuck out of an evil robot, but he never speaks a word of dialogue, instead conveying his feeling–only the one–through weighty stares while characters spout exposition at him. It’s a weird gimmick, but he commits fully to the bit because he’s a consummate professional and a fucking weirdo.

Out of the teenagers, the only one who’s actually important is Liv (Emily Tosta). It’s revealed that her parents were killed by Willy and the other animatronics many years ago, and she was found and adopted by the sheriff (played by Beth “Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to Sparkle Motion” Grant). She survives and actually ends the movie riding off with Nic Cage, and it’s… certainly a choice. Maybe it’s some toxic residue left from Tag, but Liv and Cage’s silent protagonist have this… vibe between them, and I’m not exactly a fan. I’m going to interpret it as her seeking out a better parental figure than the sheriff, because the alternative is… gross. Super gross. Cage never comes off at all paternal in this, but I’ll pretend for my sanity’s sake.

Note about the Nic Cage Freakout Meter rating for this film: Cage doesn’t really “freak out” like he has done numerous times, but the chaotic energy he brings by only communicating through incredibly annoyed stares bumps it up a point.

NIC CAGE FREAKOUT METER:


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