Willy’s Wonderland Delivers in Nearly Every Way

“He’s not trapped in here with them. They’re trapped in here with him.”

Photo+courtesy+of+IMDb

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Solomon Kenworthy, Web Editor

     Only during a pandemic would this 3 A.M. film become the afternoon norm. 

     Willy’s Wonderland was released in 2021 and was directed by Kevin Lewis. The film stars Nicolas Cage as The Janitor, and Emily Tosta as Liv. After being unable to pay for crucial car repairs, The Janitor is tricked into staying a night at Willy’s Wonderland, a Chuck E. Cheese-like establishment with a dark history unknown to him. 

     Cage’s performance is fantastically unique, in all the right ways. His character is silent throughout the runtime, so his performance entirely relies on his fight scenes and the way other characters react to him, both of which are great. The way the film chooses to tell us about this character is very clever. For example, a close-up, low-angle shot inside his Camaro showing us dog tags hanging from his rearview mirror. It’s clear Cage isn’t just here for a paycheck, he’s having a lot of fun, and that shows in every part of the film. 

     The lowest aspect of the film is its side characters, who are, unfortunately, nothing more than clichés. Most of them simply exist to be killed off. Liv is the only one with any interesting backstory or clear motivation. 

     For those who know about or have played the game series Five Nights at Freddy’s, it’s nearly impossible not to notice the similarities between the stories. Aside from some small differences here and there, they are pretty much the exact same concept. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a Freddy’s live-action adaptation, but this will not take away from the viewing experience. If anything, these similarities show how it’s possible to use ideas from other properties to your advantage.  

     Many modern-day horror films struggle to have both comedy and suspense, though this script does a surprisingly great job of balancing tone. It gives us enough reasons to be afraid of each individual animatronic, while also using the information given, or not given towards the film’s comedic moments. The script is extremely self-aware.

     The action scenes are well-choreographed, shot very well, and incredibly satisfying to watch. All of the action is memorable, the stand-out fight scene is one where The Janitor fights two of the animatronics to a rendition of “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes.” 

     On that topic, the score by Emoi adds to the unique tone of the film and is a crucial element in what made the tone great. 

     I waited six months for Willy’s Wonderland, and was not disappointed in any way. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. You’ve got to know what you’re getting into. Within the past few years, there’s been a weird new pattern slowly being created which involves big-name actors in indie films where they fight a whole bunch. This category includes The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot starring Sam Elliot, Fatman starring Mel Gibson, and now, Willy’s Wonderland, starring Nicolas freaking Cage.

 

[My Grade for Willy’s Wonderland is a B]