Willy’s Wonderland – Film Review

Cage Against the Machines- Nicolas Cage fights animatronic creatures from hell in hilarious horror.

Willy’s Wonderland Nicolas Cage CR: Kyle Kaplan

Nicolas Cage (known only as “The Janitor”) is driving in his fancy car when spikes “accidentally” left on the road blow out his tyres in the middle of nowhere. Saved by a garrulous mechanic who doesn’t take credit cards our beleaguered janitor makes a deal with the brilliantly named Tex Macadoo (Ric Reitz). The Janitor will clean Macadoo’s rundown restaurant “Willy’s Wonderland” for the night and in return, his car will be fixed free of charge. There’s just one small problem. Willy’s Wonderland comes complete with animatronic singing creatures – who have a fun sideline in murder. Meanwhile, Liv (Emily Tosta) and her friends are determined to burn Willy’s Wonderland to the ground to stop the killing. Will everyone survive the night?

Guys, I love this movie. I just want to get that out there straight away. I love this movie. It is ridiculous with a capital R, gory as hell, laugh out loud funny in places and features my favourite kind of Nicolas Cage – completely batshit “what the hell is he even doing?” Nic Cage. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I mean I say movie. If you told me this was a documentary detailing what Nicolas Cage got up to on a weekend off from filming I’d believe you. 

Never have I missed the cinema more than when I was watching Willy’s Wonderland. This is a movie made to be watched communally in a late-night setting with a well-lubricated crowd. It’s destined to be a cult classic and hopefully, when this pandemic nightmare is done we’ll all be able to go back to cinemas and watch nonsense like this and cheer every time Nic Cage rips an animatronic bad guys head off. 

There’s just so much to love about this movie. There is something inherently hilarious in watching this character very quietly and dutifully go about cleaning this ramshackle Chuck E Cheese style restaurant while hell reigns down around him. He cleans the toilets, brutally murders an animatronic horror from your worst nightmares, grumpily bags up the remains, picks up a clean Willy’s Wonderland t-shirt and continues with his tasks. He promised to clean this place people and that’s what he’s going to do – regardless of fluffy hell creatures or annoying teenagers being slaughtered around him. I cackled with absolute glee at Cage’s mild annoyance every time one of the creatures tried to kill him, thereby distracting him from his given task of making that restaurant look spotless! (Side note I really, really want a Willy’s Wonderland tee).

Director Kevin Lewis (from a script by G.O. Parsons) keeps things moving swiftly and manages to balance the tone between horror/comedy/surrealism well and just about keeps his leading men in check (I don’t think there is any reigning in Nicolas Cage). The music, by composer Émoi, is insanely catchy and will live in your head forever (you have been warned). 

Crucially the animatronic mascots are horrifying. A gorilla, an ostrich thing, a crocodile, some sort of weasel- they all look like they were made by someone who had never actually seen any of these animals but had once had them vaguely described to them. The worst is a deeply unpleasant Tinkerbell knock off with a cavernous maw of sharp teeth who leaps out at the poor teens who blunder into Willys. It’s all very Five Nights at Freddy’s. Could they be scarier? Sure. But one scene with strobe lights, Tinkerhell and a poor sap is very unnerving and the gore factor should satisfy even the most hardened horror fan.

Nicolas Cage is a joy to watch in this. His hair (wig?) is so dark it’s beginning to get a teeny bit silly but he does look very fetching in his Willy’s Wonderland tee and jeans. Only he could take a role that literally DOESN’T HAVE A SINGLE LINE OF DIALOGUE and give a performance this big. It is a huge, wild, surreal performance full of unnecessary bits of business and yet I loved every single gleeful second of it. It is worth the price of admission alone to see him do a weird dance while dry humping a pinball machine. There is a weird bit of business where his character has to down an energy drink every 20 minutes which I was so sure would pay off in some big reveal at the end but… Still, I shrieked with laughter at him literally stopping a fight with a monster to go get a refreshing can of caffeine! In a world where laughter is very necessary right now his performance is practically therapeutic to watch.

Obviously, with Cage playing this big it is very hard for anyone else to get a look in. But Emily Tosta brings a much needed warm down to earth presence to proceedings as the gutsy likeable Liv. Likewise, the always wonderful Beth Grant (as the town Sheriff) is great and gets the best moment of the movie hanging up on a terrified teen begging for her help with a resigned “Well they’ve made their beds. Now they have to lie in it”

Willy’s Wonderland is a riotously funny carnival of horrors with an instantly iconic performance from Nicolas Cage. Absolutely destined to be a cult classic.

Willy’s Wonderland is out on Digital Release from Signature Entertainment in the UK now. 

5/5 Stars