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Willy’s Wonderland: Nicolas Cage Battles Evil Animatronics in This Fun Horror-Comedy

February 12, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Willy’s Wonderland is a cheeky genre film that is exactly as advertised. It’s wild, wacky, and features an inspired (and quiet) Nicolas Cage performance.

Directed by Kevin Lewis, and written by G.O. Parsons, Willy’s Wonderland is a fun genre film that features a town under siege by evil animatronics, who reside at a Chuck E. Cheese knock-off called Willy’s Wonderland. If you’ve watched the trailer, you know that inside the rundown restaurant, there are evil puppets who delight in murder, chaos and harassing unlucky people who are hired to clean the place. Their reign of terror is put to the test when a quiet drifter (Cage), who loves soda, is hired to clean the joint after he can’t pay his car repairs with cash (ATMs don’t work, and the town doesn’t have the internet). What follows is a genre-delight that features bathroom fights, death by mop, and dead-meat teenagers.

Willy’s Wonderland is most certainly a one-joke film, however, the central performance by Cage, and the inspired idea make the 88-minute film a lot of fun. It’s a blast watching Cage play a quiet drifter who says little, and is capable of extreme murder and odd eccentricities. The moments that he spends cleaning the extremely dirty Willy’s Wonderland interior are relaxing, as he cleans toilets, walls, windows and a pinball machine that he becomes obsessed with. He also takes frequent soda breaks, and he clearly relishes chugging his Punch soda that seems to keep him in check. Some of the cheekiest bits happen when it’s time for Cage to take his soda break, as he’ll leave fights at a moment’s notice, so he can drink some soda and play some pinball (it’s an odd movie).  Without Cage, Willy’s Wonderland would play somewhat flat as the other actors are nothing more than blood bags, and only Emily Tosta and Beth Grant register as characters that have some inner-workings.

The script by G.O. Parsons spent time on the Blood List (solid horror scripts that haven’t been produced yet), and it’s truly inspired. The meat-and-potatoes idea is refreshingly simple, and quite devious. Sure, there are plot holes (I’d mention them, but I don’t want to spoil anything), but, since it’s a film about Nicolas Cage punching evil animatronic puppets, they can be forgiven. Another thing that makes the film work well, are the creatures by Creature Designer Kenneth J. Hall (Critters, Ghoulies, Caronsaur, Jack Frost). The guy knows his stuff, as he’s worked on fun puppet heavy films for the last 30+ years, and he’s created a memorable antagonist with Willy, an evil weasel who is capable of extreme violence. 

If you are looking for a breezy horror-comedy that features some inspired moments, I recommend Willy’s Wonderland.

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