willy's wonderland | kevin lewis | g.o. parsons | nicolas cage | emily tosta | beth grant | robot | robots | possessed | possession | demon | cult | action | comedy | thriller | united states | ric reitz | chris warner | kai kadlec | caylee cowan | jonathan mercedes
Film: Willy’s Wonderland
Director: Kevin Lewis
Writer: G.O. Parsons
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta and Beth Grant
This is a movie that when I first heard about, I didn’t know what to expect. I decided to give it a watch as it appeared on Rotten Tomatoes as one of the better reviewed horror movies for the year. Since during December I like cram as many that I haven’t seen for the year as well as do rewatches, I checked this out. The synopsis is a quiet drifter is tricked into a janitorial job at the now condemned Willy’s Wonderland. The mundane tasks suddenly become an all-out fight for survival against wave after wave of demonic animatronics.
We get an interesting cold open here. The movie gives us the back-story on this child’s birthday spot of Willy’s Wonderland. It is filled with animatronic characters and this is spliced with a couple trying to get away. From what we see, they don’t make it.
The movie then shifts over to someone driving fast. This ends up being our nameless lead that will be referred to as the Janitor (Nicolas Cage). He drives over a rumble strip and it flattens all of his tires. He has to wait for a tow truck that is driven by Jed Love (Chris Warner). He takes him back to his shop and goes through what it will cost to fix his vehicle. They don’t take credit cards and the ATM doesn’t work. The Janitor doesn’t have cash, but a deal is struck. He will clean up Willy’s Wonderland over the night and they’ll call is square.
While this is happening, we see Liv (Emily Tosta) trying to burn the place down. Before she can, she is stopped by her mother who is also the sheriff, Lund (Beth Grant). Lund decides to handcuff Liv to a pipe in the house to prevent her from doing anything that night. She is freed though when her friends show up. Chris (Kai Kadlec), Kathy (Caylee Cowan), Dan (Jonathan Mercedes), Bob (Terayle Hill) and Aaron (Christian Delgrosso). Their goal is to help Liv burn the place down, but she won’t let them with the mysterious guy inside. She decides to go in to and convince him to leave before it is too late.
This seems like overkill and an easy enough task to complete. The Janitor goes about his night, taking breaks for his energy drink called Punch. It takes a turn though when the animatronics come to life and attack him. He goes about dispatching them, but things get more complicated as we learn the truth of what is going on here at Willy’s Wonderland.
That will be where I leave my recap for this movie. What I’m going to lead off stating is that I’ve heard some people not liking this movie. I can see that, because I’ll be honest, this movie is dumb. What I will also say though is that I had a lot of fun with it. This is a wild, almost video game type movie with Cage’s character just being a beast. Don’t get me wrong though, this is absurd. There is comedy here as he nonchalantly fights off a robot and goes back to what he is doing. He will even take his designated break, even if it puts someone else’s life in peril. I’m willing to overlook some of this with how fun it is.
When I first heard about this movie, I knew people were equating it to an adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy’s, which I guess is a horror video game that was made for a younger audience. From what I read, these two things have similar stories and concepts, but this is its own entity. Since I’ve never played the game, I don’t know much beyond that. What I will say is that I like the back-story to what we get here. Willy’s Wonderland has a dark past. It appeared that a serial killer ran it. There is a satanic cult here involved and the town might know more than what they were letting on. Giving me this information was enough to buy what we are doing and enjoy the concept.
The only other thing about the story that clicked while reading through, this is borrowing from westerns. I’d even go as far to say we are paying homage here. We have this town, there is a dark past and we have something that is held over them. Usually in a western, this could be a gang of bandits or Native Americans. This movie instead has the robots in Willy’s Wonderland. We then have a nameless hero that shows up, saves the day and then goes on his way.
Since I’m not going to spoil beyond that, I’ll go to the acting. Cage as our lead here is great. What is interesting is that he doesn’t speak one line of dialogue. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but I dug it. It gives this movie flair of a western with our nameless hero coming into town and helping clean it up as I was saying. This is quite literal in this case. We get enough ‘Rage Cage’ and I thought he was great. Tosta is solid as this outspoken teen with a dark past. Grant is good as the sheriff that knows more than we realize in the beginning. The same can be said for the other two from town me meet with Tex Macadoo who is played by Ric Reitz and Warner as Jed. The teens are fine and add to the body count that we need here. Cowan and Hill make a dumb decision I don’t fully buy, but I think that is partially to get her into her underwear. For the tone of the movie, I get what they’re doing there and it is fine. I’d also give credit to all the actors playing the animatronics as well. Special props to Jessica Graves Davis as she moves as robotic as Siren Sara and it impressed me.
Then really the last things to go into would be the effects, cinematography and soundtrack. For the former, we don’t get a lot, but what we do is good. There isn’t blood, but oil which is a good touch. They go practical with as much as they could. There is CGI at different points and goes a bit heavy at the end. I’m forgiving with how little they used to be honest. The cinematography is well done. We get some interesting focus and shots that I dug. This place was popular in the 1980’s so I love that we get a montage in the style of that era. Going along with that was a great theme song synced to it. I was thoroughly impressed with the soundtrack as well. It fit for what was needed and the sound effects were also good.
In conclusion here, this movie was a lot more fun than I was expecting. We get a simple enough premise that worked. This movie feels like a video game mixed in with horror, supernatural and even a bit of a western. I think that Cage plays his character perfectly. The idea is quite creepy to be honest. The rest of the acting is fine. The effects I’d say were good. Cinematography was as well and the soundtrack was on point for what they needed. I enjoyed this quite a bit. I’d say this is an above average movie. If you want a shut off your brain movie, which I’d recommend to horror and non-horror fans alike, for something wild that is just fun.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10