Directed by Kevin Lewis, Willy’s Wonderland is the story of a man who gets hired as a janitor for one night at an abandoned establishment known for its children’s parties. Hidden behind its closed doors is a facility with animatronic robots that secretly come to life and feed on humans.
If nothing else, Nicholas Cage picks the movies best suited to him, ones no other actor in Hollywood could probably pull off. Nicholas Cage sets himself loose again in Willy’s Wonderland and it feels surprisingly fresh. Most of it comes from restraint in his performance. Surprisingly, Cage doesn’t utter a single word throughout the entire film. One can evidently see shades of a character who doesn’t reveal all that much about himself. The movie strives on making him an enigmatic character and makes it work. The question is, however, is that the ideal way to go.
Needs more Cage
With a premise eerily like Five Nights at Freddy’s, anyone who’s seen any promotion for this movie knows exactly how it’s going to be. This is a B-Grade grunge horror flick with Nicholas Cage front and center. Know what to expect and you might just have a good time. I almost got what I expected except for one major disappointment. For a film that’s being carried solely on Cage fury, this movie somehow has him not uttering a single word. This makes very little sense to me since Cage happens to have excellent command over the language. Shoutout to his breakdown scene in the bathroom in Mandy or his iconic scene in Vampire’s Kiss. I mean there’s a reason why he hosted ‘The History of Swear Words’ on Netflix.
The only thing disappointing, per se, about the movie is its unwillingness to milk Cage as much as it can. The lack of dialogue and unwillingness to make the most of his ‘crazy’ scenes at the very least is what holds me back from recommending this movie. The movie also has a weird way of making Cage busy doing something else in what would otherwise be crucial moments for survival. Without spoiling anything, these moments involve Cage doing something which although entertaining, feels very counterproductive in a survival horror film. Not to forget these scenes add nothing to his character and at times even ruin the pacing. It can be mindless fun to watch Cage doing weird stuff, but it ruins any sense of dread or tension in an otherwise tense setup. It’s still a lot of fun watching Cage get violent with a bunch of robots, beating his way through an entire night, expressing solely through emoting. I got what I wanted, but just wish there were more of it.
Filmmaking’s not that great either
Apart from that, it’s the usual flaws in any B-Grade flick. Supporting characters make dumb decisions, actors perform inconsistently, cheesy exposition, and a premise that very rarely makes sense. It’s a premise that shouldn’t even exist at the beginning of the film, let alone carry throughout the entire runtime. The film also lit and edited very poorly in crucial scenes with Cage going crazy. Scenes that should have been the highlight never really make a memorable impression because either the camera work is poor or there just is not enough light to see anything.
Willy’s Wonderland doesn’t nearly fully utilize its lead star, the one thing Nicholas Cage enthusiasts will be most looking forward to. Apart from that, it’s plagued with nearly everything you’d expect in a movie with a premise like this. However, it’s also something people wouldn’t mind going in with the right expectations.