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John’s Horror Corner: Willy’s Wonderland (2021), a Nic Cage horror-comedy… what else did you need to know?

March 24, 2021

MY CALL: This movie is far from amazing and, frankly, ranks well below the likes of Cage’s most recent (and clearly higher budget) horror endeavors (Mandy, The Color Out of Space). But this movie certainly has its place, and it knows exactly what it is. And what it is, is a playful yet mean, brutal yet laughably fun B-movie romp. And it does a great job of that. MORE MOVIES LIKE Willy’s Wonderland: The most similar film on the market would probably be The Banana Splits (2019). If you find you need more Nic Cage horror in your life, then you should turn to Mandy (2018; podcast discussion) and The Color Out of Space (2019).

In case my review leaves you on the fence about this film, please check out Mark’s review of and podcast discussion of Willy’s Wonderland.

There are certain words that never cross my mind when considering films starring Nic Cage—reasonable, grounded and rational fall firmly in this category. Yet this is as close as I’ve ever seen him come to it. As soon as we meet Cage’s antihero, it becomes abundantly clear that his character’s complete dialogue-less silence was a part of the elevator pitch of this movie.

After blowing out four tires and lacking the cash to pay for the repairs, our quiet drifter (Cage) agrees to spend the night cleaning the Chucky Cheese knock-off Wally’s Wonderland. That very night, a group of twentysomethings intend to burn down the malevolent party venue to end their local town curse.

Director Kevin Lewis lets you know exactly what this film is right away. The locals are bringing a drifter to Wally’s to die, presumably as some sort of sacrifice, to the hands of animatronic characters that start moving on their own almost as soon as we see them. We are informed that these demonic entertainers have claimed many lives over the years. But this drifter won’t be the next!

The violent action would only be passable were it not for Cage’s trademark manic demeanor. That’s the delicious icing on an otherwise plain but serviceable cake. He frenzies like a shark in bloodied water and flails Ozzy the Ostrich like a Tasmanian Devil in a kumite death match, even tearing out its oily dripping robotic spine! And then… he calmly bags it with the rest of the trash, changes his shirt and drinks a soda. Mr. Cage, like your famous movie, sir, you are a national treasure.

The splatter violence includes a prison style curb stomp, but other death scenes are totally phoned in. Put simply, when Cage is doing the killing it’s a lot more fun to watch. And when he’s not… it’s not. But at least they’re all blood-dousing deaths.

This movie is far from amazing and, frankly, ranks well below the likes of Cage’s recent (and clearly higher budget) horror endeavors (Mandy, The Color Out of Space). But this movie certainly has its place, and it knows exactly what it is. And what it is, is a playful yet mean, brutal yet laughable B-movie romp. And it does a great job of that. Really, I’m not sure it would work a fraction as well without Cage.

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