Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Release Date: February 12th, 2021 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Kevin Lewis Actors: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kadlec, Caylee Cowan, Jonathan Mercedes, Terayle Hill, Christian Del Grosso, David Sheftell, Jessica Graves Davis

 


 

“I

t’s your birthday and we want you to have fun!” While the Willy’s Wonderland theme park/party restaurant might have been a standard, ultra-cheap derivation of Chuck E. Cheese (or Disneyland on a micro scale) – for a budget celebration destination – it’s a house of horrors for unsuspecting intruders, especially since it was shut down some time ago over a few pesky lawsuits. It now resides as an abandoned, evil place, rumored to have claimed the lives of countless missing kids. When an unnamed man-of-few-words (Nicolas Cage) drives over tire spike strips in the middle of a woodland road on the way to Hayesville, a tow truck driver (Chris Warner) takes him into town. The cost for repair – in cash – is too high, which prompts the driver to call up local businessman Tex Macadoo (Ric Reitz), who offers a solution to the stranger: work the night as a janitor to clean up Willy’s Wonderland, and the vehicular restoration will be covered.

“We ain’t got no internet in Hayesville.” There’s something amiss with Tex and his janitorial assignment, which is closer to the typical spend-the-night-in-a-haunted-house ruse than an earnest attempt to rehabilitate a tourist trap. Indeed, it’s not long before the ramshackle animatronic characters come to life and attack the janitor, leading to a night of terror as he battles hordes of rubbery, possessed monstrosities and costumed mascots.

“He don’t talk much.” A lone, silent man, even with a special set of skills (and a six-pack or two of a potent pop drink), doesn’t provide enough fodder for the cartoonish killers of Willy’s Wonderland, which means that a gang of young adults are necessary to up the ante. Rebellious Liv (Emily Tosta) and her pals Chris (Kai Kadlec), Kathy (Caylee Cowan), Dan (Jonathan Mercedes), Bobby (Terayle Hill), and Aaron (Christian Del Grosso) come to the rescue – or, rather, they increase the potential for victims to be tormented by demonic dolls. Sadly, they tend to behave like generic horror-movie scream-queens, making incredibly stupid decisions, wandering off alone (or having sex in filthy locales), trading lines of bad dialogue, and running around in a panic.

Although watching Cage slaughter robotic characters (with names like Ozzie the Ostrich and Arty the Alligator), brutally splattering their oily lifeblood across the walls – and then cleaning up his messes – definitely provides entertainment (perhaps along the lines of a live-action video game), the amusement wears off rather fast. It gets too repetitive too quickly, especially when detailed explanations arrive in the form of flashbacks, hampering the pacing – or when answers never turn up at all, such as the purpose and power of the seemingly metaphorical fizzy beverage. Nevertheless, Cage takes the pervasive silliness seriously, embracing the opportunity to wreak havoc in ever goofier, bloodier ways. It may be overly simple and devoid of enough surprises to maintain interest, but at least there’s an overload of cathartic revenge fantasy.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10