Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Weasels, Sirens and Cage? Oh My!: Willy's Wonderland (2021)

Willy's Wonderland (2021)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant

Apparently, if you put Nicolas Cage inside a death house full of killers, he's not trapped in there with them. They're trapped in there with him.

 This is the case in Willy's Wonderland (2021), where Cage plays a lone, quiet and nameless drifter who sees himself driving through a set of road spikes "accidentally" left there. Just his luck, a tow truck happens to conveniently spot him and its driver, Jed, is willing to work on the ride if the drifter, apparently unable to pay for the new tires, is willing to work it off himself. So Jed calls in Tex Macadoo, the owner of the kid's pizzeria Willy's Wonderland and he has a proposition for the drifter; stay overnight to clean and fix the place up and the new tires are for free in the morning!

With a hand shake and a swift tour around the pizzeria, the drifter becomes "The Janitor" and off he goes to work. But things aren't all right around Willy's. Not when the animatronics gaze at him hungrily, their claws, teeth and weapons itching to shed blood, results of a Satanic ritual done years ago. So as night falls, the Janitor figures out (rather quickly) that he's in a rough night as the robotic menaces go after him, leaving him to fight back and spill some robot gore, all the while still cleaning up the place, taking hourly breaks for a soda and pinball game, and encounter some well meaning yet still doomed kids who decided to break in to, well, break him out.

Now, see, if you're looking for a horror movie that's rich in subtext and substance, then you're at the wrong pizza stop. Willy's Wonderland (2021) is seemingly made for two purposes; to be a bloody, cheesy, easy-going horror-comedy and to be a Nicolas Cage vehicle. There's really no deeper plot in here than Cage fighting off a gaggle of fuzzy robots and this can be easily seen with how shallow and bland most of the characters are, and too how quickly this film gets to the punching point. This said, it can get slightly tedious whenever the movie stops for a soda break and focus on the fleshy victims-to-be, only to be of slight interest when they go feed us some information to what's going on, though it's not something that elaborate or new altogether. (Basically, Willy's was founded by notorious killer Satanists and their murderous souls got transferred into the robots through a suicide pact in order to escape police and continue their killing spree beyond death, practically pulling a Child's Play (1987) gri-gri on us.) 

If you are, however, open for cheese, ham and Nic Cage shlock, then it's your birthday today because here at Willy's Wonderland, they have more than enough of those to feed your B-flick cravings. There's a strong sense of dark humor at play here and the ridiculousness of the premise just blends in perfectly with the direction and flow the movie goes by. The small army of  killer animatronics are a fun bunch by design, a little diverse in their range from talking animals to fantasy beings like sirens and knights, all tainted in grime and age which adds some uncanny creep factor. The kills are bloody at their best, may it be your typical human victims or, yes, even the possessed animatronics themselves! For those with a twisted fascination for robot "gorno", this film surprisingly finds a way to make decimating creepy kids place machines satisfyingly brutal with oil spilling like blood and metal parts crushed like bones!

And then there's the one and only Nicolas Cage, who doesn't utter an entire word in the film save for some groans and grunts. He more or less lets his fists and cleaning duties do the talking here, both being satisfying to watch, but the lack of dialogue on his part does make him too enigmatic for his own good, bordering into being questionable as there were moments where his help could have been appreciated but he chooses to ignore it, resulting to some deaths. Nevertheless, it adds to the weirdness and macabre of Willy's Wonderland and it does have Cage getting into the zone and jamming out to this film's best song while playing pinball so not a completely big dent to the movie's charm.

If you know what you're getting yourself into, then Willy's Wonderland (2021) is just the kind of junk food horror goodie bag you could ask for. Packed with creepy killer bots, an ass-kicking antihero and a gaggle lot of strangeness, find a good cozy spot in your Super Happy Fun Room and give this a good whirl!

1 male dragged away, killed
1 female killed, blood splash seen
1 boy clawed (flashback)
1 male, 1 female and 1 girl killed offcamera (flashback)
6 males and 1 female seen dead from suicide, ingested tainted drink (flashback)
1 girl bearhugged to death (flashback)
1 male ran through with a sword
1 male mauled to death
1 male bitten to death
1 female mauled dead offcamera
1 male found disemboweled (flashback)
An entire family mentioned murdered 
1 female attacked, presumably killed (flashback)
2 females and 1 male seen murdered (flashback)
1 victim seen mauled (flashback)
1 female seen mauled (flashback)
1 male implied murdered (flashback)
2 males and 1 female implied murdered (flashback)
1 male decapitated with a sword (flashback)
1 male and 1 female had their necks snapped (flashback)
1 male had his neck snapped 
1 male crushed to death
1 female clawed in half 
2 males immolated in an exploding car
Total: 36+

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