Review: 'Willy's Wonderland' (2021) Dir. Kevin Lewis
Once teased by an episode of 'The Simpsons' where mascots come to life in an amusement park, this turns the idea on its head for a grizzly horror/comedy with a sequel already planned...
When a silent loner (Cage) breaks down outside of Hayesville, Nevada, has has no money to pay for the repairs. He makes a deal to work for the repairs and is tasked acting as a one-night janitor and clean up the old amusement park "Willy's Wonderland" over one night.
Owner Tex Macadoo (Reitz) has fended off numerous complaints that forced the park to close and aims to have it re-open again. But it soon becomes apparent to the loner that, once night falls, the animatronic mascots come to life with deadly intent.
At the same time, teenager Liv Hawthorne (Tosta) and her friends arrive at the park wanting to burn it down knowing how nightmarish the place is, but she doesn't get the chance before she is forced into a battle of survival with the janitor facing off against the horrors inside...
If you blend Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name and Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800, then you have Nicholas Cage's Janitor. A brooding, silent man who speaks only with his expression, drives a throbbing muscle car and dresses in leather. The premise of this mysterious stranger who is forced to work as a janitor inside a killer amusement park wears off quickly, because Cage literally says nothing and comes across like his character houses a dark past. Yet none of this really comes to fruition regardless of how man times he drinks cans of soda when his watch alarm beeps or he is never identified.
Cage is here to bring his name to a cheap horror/comedy that has so much potential from the outset but comes across as nothing but rather uninspired and boring. The fact you can't count on any character development from Cage or even get to like any of his quirks is a real downfall. While his current run of bad films continues with an eclectic cult following, this is just plain bad and he has no room to save it.
Cage is wasted for what he could bring to this zany plot, and there is little room for it to shine despite trying to be quirky with it's editing, framing and select score.
Half an hour in, and the metaphoric excrement hits the fan when eight of the animatronic Wonderland mascots come to life once night dawns and begin to target Cage and simply do him in. With an array of kiddy, creepy voice overs and eccentric costumes and outfits that would belong on any season of 'The Masked Singer', there is nothing horrific about this because it's clearly down to people dressing up and attacking our silent hero in a number of small scale fights one after the other in various locations that result in excessive blood and oil splats at the climax.
And by this point you'll be bored of the watch alarm, "tssk" of the can, loud slurping, groan of pleasure and pinball clinks.
To add some variety into proceedings that would otherwise be very boring, newcomer Emily Tosta, also YouTube star, has a personal vendetta against the park and is thrown into the fight for survival with Cage and fellow social media stars and rappers in the acting roster who won't gain awards for acting anytime soon. Tosta is here for no reason except be the voice that they've not given Cage and help explain the why and what that surrounds the horrors of Willy's Wonderland.
There are no scares, no shocks and no surprises. Even with director and co-writer Kevin Lewis doing all he can to tap into nightmarish situations such as childhood mascots coming to life in a surreal, fantastical land such as a theme park, it falls flat. We are even teased with a real chilling Satanic backstory about the cult of Willy's Wonderland that is played out in glorious exposition, but this again comes of nothing when it's down to one boring confrontational set-piece after the other.
Devoid of atmosphere, original horrific elements and a story that doesn't go anywhere, there is little to take away here in the form of either entertainment, horror or Nicholas Cage craziness.
Baffles me that a film as bad as this gets a sequel, while 'Dredd' gets nothing.
A cheap, empty film that worked better as an episode of 'The Simpsons'. There is nothing here that can live up to the premise as an entertaining horror, and Cage does nothing to elevate proceedings.
'Willy's Wonderland' is a co-production between Saturn Films, Landmark Studio Group, Landafar Entertainment and JD Entertainment