Willy’s Wonderland Review

Willy's Wonderland
An out-of-towner (Nicolas Cage) has his car put out of action in mysterious circumstances and has no choice but to work at a run-down entertainment centre to pay for the repairs. Little does he know that, due to some Satanist shenanigans, he’s about to spend the night fending off giant robotic animals who want to swallow his soul. 

by Nick de Semlyen |
Updated on
Release Date:

12 Feb 2021

Original Title:

Willy’s Wonderland

The concept of animatronic creatures running amok is not a new one. There’s Westworld. There’s the Simpsons episode in which robot mice turn homicidal at the Itchy & Scratchy theme park. And, more recently, there’s the Five Nights At Freddy’s video-game series, in which a security guard at a pizza restaurant fends off berserker robots. There's one thing lacking in all of those, though: Nicolas Cage. That is not an accusation one can make of Willy's Wonderland, an exceptionally pure shot of Cage madness. He may remain mute throughout the entire 89-minute runtime, but it’s a ferociously committed, truly weird (even by his standards) performance that elevates an otherwise repetitive story. You get the feeling he’s been asking his agent, “Have I been offered anything in which I batter a mechanical ostrich to death?” for a while now.

Cage is a super-stylised, unpindownable hoot, even stranger than the gonzo creations he’s facing.

Like classic ’90s neo-noir Red Rock West, the film starts with a drifter played by Cage arriving in a small town full of secrets. Unlike Red Rock West, those secrets involve Satanism and a psychotic giant weasel. As Cage is coerced into working in a haunted family entertainment centre — his character is known only as ‘The Janitor’ — a cycle begins, with an animatronic coming to life and Cage forced into violent battle with it. The action gets a little samey, and the production’s limited budget is evident. What’s refreshing is just how bizarre the central character is, not responding to the Evil Dead-y carnage with Ash-esque fear, but with a totally nonplussed demeanour. Chugging endless cans of fictional soft drink Punch (“A fistful of caffeine to your kisser”) and playing pinball between kills, he’s a super-stylised, unpindownable hoot, even stranger than the gonzo creations he’s facing.

Director Kevin Lewis gives the action some Sam Raimi energy, finishing off a bunch of unmemorable teenagers with gory flair. And though the dialogue and plotting are no great shakes, that commitment to the concept, combined with Cage’s swaggering soda-swigger, is enough to make this a good time.

Come for Nic Cage fighting a robot alligator with a mop. Stay for some inventive licks on the dead-by-dawn horror-movie template, though the other characters are nothing to shriek about.
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