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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review: Willy's Wonderland

Director: Kevin Lewis

Screenplay: G.O. Parsons

Year: 2021

The animatronics topic has been gaining steam in horror movies in recent times. “The Banana Splits Movie” is one of the most recent ones I remember at this, that set out to revive a moderately popular show for kids and give it a bloody twist. Then it was the remake of “Child’s Play”, which used this topic to give life to the dreaded Chucky. “Willy’s Wonderland” uses this topic but doesn’t bring back forgotten characters, although it is not a completely original story.

A drifter is tricked into cleaning an abandoned building in exchange for repairing his recently broken down car. What should have been a night of janitorial work ends up being a fight for survival when the robotic characters inside the local come alive and are fixed on getting rid of him. But the robots meet a worthy adversary, and only one of them can come out alive.

How the plot is set up comes out as absurd, but as the movie develops, loose ends start coming together. A sheriff leaves a spike strip in the middle of a road. Our protagonist drives through that road, and the spikes destroy his car’s tires, leading him to take it to a mechanic and finding out he has no cash to pay for the work and the closest ATM is out of service. To pay for the repair, the man agrees to clean a run-down building known as Willy’s Wonderland, a children’s party local. 

Once the protagonist arrives at the place and we start seeing the animatronics in action, it is impossible not to notice the resemblances to the popular horror video game “Five Nights at Freddy’s”, a game inspired by the children’s place Chuck E. Cheeses, which also serves as inspiration for this movie. Speaking of familiar faces, the protagonist, for whom we never know the name and is referred to as the janitor, is interpreted by no one else than Nicholas Cage (“Color Out Of Space”, “Mandy”), who slightly moves away from the wild characters ha has been interpreting recently and finds a new challenge in his career, interpreting a rough character that has zero lines of dialogue through the whole movie. Nicholas Cage has never looked so badass as in this movie while he kicks the hell out of children’s animatronics in a kiddie shirt.

No one will be surprised by reading that this movie is centered on being fun, and really what else can you expect from a topic like this? The film is violent, but since half the characters are animated toys, much of the blood is traded by oil, but with a similar effect. However, it feels shy concerning gore and for what the premise allows for. Although Cage does a phenomenal job, it feels like his character could have been exploited much more.

“Willy’s Wonderland” is just what its name suggests: violence and campy fun, but it shies away from the gore. Nicholas Cage gives life to another great character enveloped in a cloak of mystic enigma and manages to inject him with charisma without evoking a single word. This is the sort of movie to sit down and enjoy its characters, violence, and fantastic soundtrack (one of the songs reminded me of the Halloween song from Silver Shamrock in “Halloween III: Season Of The Witch”) without giving it much thought. In the end, it is a grown-up man fighting with children’s characters.

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