Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Nicholas Cage beats up animatronic creatures alongside a group of teens.

Bit weird. That’s an understatement, I mean, just look at that synopsis and tell me there’s a way to make it normal. It’s every bit as strange as that makes it sound. It’s like Five Nights At Freddy’s as a horror movie (a bit like the Banana Splits movie which I still need to see). It probably helped that Nicolas Cage is in it, which allowed it more casual eyes than it would have had otherwise. The script grabbed his attention when he read it on the blood list, and he helped produce it too.

Cage is weird, he is occasionally awful, not just in performances but also in the films he picks (Wicker Man comes to mind), but then he picks something like this and knocks it out the park. That’s all the more impressive when you realise he doesn’t utter a single word in the film. That’s incredibly hard to do, especially in a way that feels natural. But it’s done so well that it’s possible you might not notice. There’s not a moment where you sit there thinking “why doesn’t he just say something?”, he gets his character over so well wordlessly. This is possibly one of his best performances, and to be honest it’s kind of frustrating that he is capable of this, but then makes terrible choices in other films. Either he’s very lazy at times, or he has an evil twin who can’t act.

The other performances are good too. Beth Grant continues to do her usual, but her usual is so damn impressive that it works. Emily Tosta co-anchors the film alongside Cage, and easily matches him in performance levels.

The others are good, but aren’t in it long enough. It’s a shame as they’re good characters with individual motivations. So it’s a shame to see them go so soon when they all had so much potential for their own plot points. The 88 minute runtime slightly hinders it in that aspect, if you added half an hour and spread the characters around you could add more depth to the film whilst also (hopefully) not upsetting the pace too much.

The other main weakness is the animatronic characters themselves. Sometimes they look fine but in some of the more intense sequences they do just look a bit silly. Ozzie Ostrich in particular doesn’t look good when it moves. When that kind of thing happens it can be a bit distracting and take you out of the film. It’s a shame as the general look of the film is good. It has a weird neon look to it. Kevin Lewis has a great sense of light and dark, using the intense brightness among the night-look to create a stunningly unique look.

Now onto the plot, the plot doesn’t need to be this good. It doesn’t need to be as disturbing as it does. It could get away with no explanation, just have it as a schlocky horror. The fact it does is to be commended. The plot is as disturbing as the images, and the images are pretty damn disturbing. This film actually has the balls to kill kids. That doesn’t happen in horror films often enough, usually they’re spared because it would be too disturbing (as if that’s not the point of horror films).

So in summary, see this. But don’t see it alone. Get people around, get drunk and watch it while making stupid jokes.