If you’ve seen the trailer for Willy’s Wonderland, you were no doubt wondering what on earth your eyes had just been witness to, and I’m afraid the full film doesn’t get any less demented. Willy’s Wonderland is a 2021 horror-comedy from director Kevin Lewis that is every bit a modern-day B-movie, complete with cheesy script and questionable acting. On paper, it sounds like it should be entertainingly bad but silly, but unfortunately in reality it’s just bad.
Willy’s Wonderland follows a drifter (Nicolas Cage) who experiences car troubles on his way cross country and is tricked into becoming a janitor overnight for the condemned Willy’s Wonderland to pay off his car repairs. Willy’s is a kids restaurant slash indoor play area themed around Willy the weasel and his animatronic friends, including a crocodile, chameleon, gorilla and ostrich. However, Willy’s isn’t just your ordinary run-down restaurant as it has a dark and horrific history involving murderers, criminals and satanic rituals. Now the friendly animatronic creatures have taken on a murderous life of their own and in a bid to appease them, the town elders (including the sheriff played by Beth Grant) have turned to tricking people travelling through into Willy’s to act as human sacrifices. Unfortunately, the townsfolk don’t get quite what they expected with Cage’s unnamed drifter, who alongside local girl Liv (Emily Tosta), gives the demonic creatures a lot more than they bargained for.
I have been dying to watch this film since seeing the trailer. It looked like it’d be absolutely crazy silliness from start to finish and one of those films that are so bad they’re good. But as much as I wanted to like this, I feel like it fell short of what was promised. The first major problem is that it’s meant to be a horror-comedy, but there was little humour on offer and the only time I really found myself laughing was at the sheer bizarreness of this entire film. Horror-wise there is a decent amount of blood and gore, but some of it looks badly done and unrealistic and there’s little to be scared of here either. Towards the start of the film, there are a few creepy scenes with the animatronic animals, but as the story progresses the scares are lost and this is where the film suffers. It is possible to make a film that’s scary, funny and good (Cabin in the Woods is a shining example), but sadly Willy’s Wonderland doesn’t pull it off.
The fight scenes are lost due to the crazy artistic and surreal style of camera work, meaning you barely have a clue what’s going on and the backing music to accompany these fight scenes doesn’t always work either. And then there’s Nicolas Cage. For some unknown reason, they’ve decided to make his character completely mute with absolutely no dialogue whatsoever. This works in the first few scenes, but as the story unfolds you find yourself crying out for him to say something, anything. If any film was suitable for Cage’s signature crazy-eyed overacting, it’s this one and not utilising this is criminal. What were they thinking?! The script isn’t great and the majority of characters are entirely wasted and one dimensional, even for a horror film, with only Emily Tosta coming out of this relatively unscathed, so a bit of Cage’s acting could’ve really helped make this a lot more entertaining.
Willy’s Wonderland had a lot of promise, with an interesting and crazy B-movie horror storyline. However, it’s the execution that has let it down, as it’s severely lacking in horror or comedy and doesn’t make use of the cast or promising story. It’s a shame as it’s semi enjoyable as is, but could’ve been so much better!
Signature Entertainment Presents Willy’s Wonderland on Digital Platforms 12th April and DVD & Blu-ray 19th April
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!