It’s time once again to dust off the old keyboard and warm up my digits to give you fine folks another new horror movie review. I couldn’t think of any better way of returning to written form than with Kevin Lewis’ blast of a film, Willy’s Wonderland.
Unable to pay for repairs after his car breaks down, a quiet loner is forced to spend the night in an abandoned children’s indoor play place. When the animatronic mascots of Willy’s Wonderland start coming to life, however, he must fight to survive the night.
I remember seeing the trailer for Willy’s Wonderland just a few short weeks ago and immediately thinking that this was a film that I needed to see. Yet another genre film starring Nicolas Cage (Mandy, Mom and Dad), and this time it featured seemingly friendly children’s characters running amok… Sign me up!
Simply known as “The Janitor,” Cage’s character is a man of few words. In fact, in the film’s 89 minutes, all you get from him are grunts and the occasional “ahhh.” No words are necessary, which proves to be no problem for the veteran actor; His facial expressions, body language, and movements — most often on display in violent battles with mechanical nightmare-fuel — are all he needs to get his point across. Like a hero from any number of great Western films, this quiet stranger is ready to save this small town from unspeakable evil.
Cage is joined by a small cast of performers, most of which are fresh faces, at least to me, and quite frankly all do a wonderful job. The only other familiar face, Beth Grant (Donnie Darko, No Country for Old Men), a veteran actor in her own right, does great with her role as the Sheriff, doing her best to protect the small town’s folk while maintaining a dark secret.
The group of youngsters on a mission to rid the town of this cursed place are also a talented lot. The leader of the pack is Liv, played by Emily Tosta (“Mayans M.C.”). While her delivery seemed a bit off at times, she did fine enough with her respective role, as well.
While great performances from all parties involved, familiar face or not, are always welcome, the main draw for a film like Willy’s Wonderland is, of course, the antagonistic gang of animatronics.
Created with a mix of practical and visual effects, Willy the Weasel and his gang of animal-themed characters look just as menacing as they do kid-friendly. Once loving characters in a family fun center, Willy, Siren Sara, Cammy the Chameleon, Tito the Turtle, Arty the Alligator, Knighty Knight, Gus the Gorilla, and Ozzie the Ostrich are now much more sinister, with an insatiable thirst for blood. I loved the look of each of these nightmarish creations, all with unique characteristics but still looking like they were cut from the same cloth, so to speak.
Without giving away too much, both the creatures and the humans meet their demise in fun, albeit gory, ways. Each kill is entertaining as all Hell to watch and whether the end result is a blood-soaked or a blacker oil-drenched one, all splatter fiends should be satisfied here.
Willy’s Wonderland at Home
Willy’s Wonderland is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Screen Media. The Blu-ray home release of the film features a 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen format presentation with both 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound audio tracks. Optional English subtitles are also available.
There are a handful of extra features including behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the film, cast and crew interviews, and more. Each of these featurettes dives deeper into the film, clearly showing how much fun was had creating this movie.
I would have loved to get a bit more backstory on the “The Janitor” character — more specifically why he doesn’t speak or why he sets an alarm almost every hour for a pop and pinball break — but I am still pretty content with the little we did get.
Other than that, I can’t really think of anything negative to say about Willy’s Wonderland. It is a fun watch from start to finish, one that doesn’t involve too much thought. You can gather a couple of friends, grabs some snacks, and enjoy yourselves for an hour and a half. To make things even more entertaining and for more animatronic assault and cuddly carnage, be sure to setup a double feature night with Danishka Esterhazy’s 2019 flick, The Banana Splits Movie.
Give Willy’s Wonderland a watch of your own and see if you agree with my final repulsive rating of 4 Punch pop and pinball dance breaks out of 5.