Willy’s Wonderland (2021) – Kevin Lewis

Silly, goofy, and wonderfully over-the-top, the horror film, Willy’s Wonderland, is just a romp that doesn’t take itself, or the world it exists in very seriously, and it’s star, Nicholas Cage, doesn’t say a word through the entire film.

His character, known only in the credits as The Janitor, is a bad-ass looking guy who’s racing along country roads, before a trap on the road ensnares him, and makes him the latest catch for a themed restaurant called Willy’s Wonderland (think Chuck E. Cheese). In the middle of nowhere, a geographical oddity that doesn’t have internet or ATMs, The Janitor needs $1000 cold hard cash to pay for the repairs to his car.

He’s offered a deal, an overnight cleaning shift at the closed down Willy’s Wonderland, and his repairs will be paid for. He agrees, and after being reminded to take breaks overnight, he’s locked in. But he’s not alone.

It seems the animatronic characters of the restaurant are imbued with evil murderous spirits, and they have the Janitor set in their sights.

But even their attacks won’t keep him from holding up his end of the deal. He’s there to clean, he’s going to clean. He’s going to remember to take his breaks, no matter when they occur, and he’s going to deal with these murderous creatures as they come.

Things are complicated by the arrival of some cannon fodder in the form of local kids who think they’re going to burn the place down, once and for all. After they get the Janitor out. The Janitor seems completely unfazed by everything that happens to him, and only really lets loose in moments of violence and when he kicks ass at pinball. Beyond that he’s very task focused, whether it’s cleaning or taking down evil machines.

It’s a Nic Cage movie without Nic Cage ‘acting’ like Nic Cage, and honestly, I thought it was a hoot. Is it a great movie? No. Is it going to become a cult favorite? Honestly I can’t see how it can’t. And The Janitor is such an easy cosplay, that it’s a gimme for conventions if you can find a Willy’s Wonderland tee.

I like the animatronic characters, and it’s great production wise because it’s just people in suits and masks without lots of computer generated effects. The characters, by their design, are meant to look alternately appealing and creepy as anything, and it works. At this point they’re so mangy and worn looking that they look rather horrifying, especially when the lights come up and they’re just there beside you!

It’s fun to see another recognizable face in the cast in the form of Beth Grant as the town’s local sheriff, Lund. It’s through her that we get some backstory about what is going on, and we learn the horrible things that have happened at Willy’s Wonderland, and why they continue to happen.

The young cast doesn’t last too long, and they are dumb enough to follow all the usual horror tropes that will lead to death, so you know what’s going to happen, it’s just fun watching it play out.

It’s a brainless, bloody romp. A laugh. Not great, but it is a hoot.

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