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Willy’s Wonderland Review

by Nick L’Barrow

This is Nic Cage’s goddamn world, and we are lucky to be living in it. 

I have an affinity with Academy Award winning Nicolas Cage. Not only do we share the same first name, but we also share the exact same date of birth (minus the actual year we were born). I have an unapologetic addiction to his performances, he is always incredibly electric on screen with his high energy, constantly yelling and brashly bravado characters. So, you can imagine my shock (and surprise) when Cage still kept me fully engaged with his unnamed character, known only as ‘The Janitor’, that does not have a SINGLE WORD of dialogue in the Five Nights At Freddy’s inspired action-comedy-horror, Willy’s Wonderland.

Cage’s ‘The Janitor’ is offered an ultimatum – the small-town mechanic will fix his car overnight for free, if he stays overnight inside and cleans up the defunct kid’s restaurant, Willy’s Wonderland, a play land full of broken-down animatronic animal-like characters. After strange events begin to occur once night falls, and with a group of teenagers attempting to break into Willy’s Wonderland to find out its potentially demonic secrets, The Janitor must survive the night – in order to get his car back.

Let’s face it, you’re not watching this movie for the intricate plot and deeply emotional characters. Just like I was, you’re here to watch Nicolas Cage beat the bloodied daylights out of some creepy looking demon animals. And Willy’s Wonderland… kind of delivers on that premise.

The story is ultimately divided into two-sections to begin with. The first being The Janitor trying to survive each attack while he actually attempts to clean up Willy’s Wonderland. The second being the group of incredibly insufferable, stereotypical, horror film teenagers who want to destroy the restaurant because of it’s hidden and controversial past. And even when these two storylines converge halfway through the movie, they don’t meld well as the plots feel like they belong in different movies. One of those movies is reasonably dumb, but pretty fun to watch. The other movie is just dumb.

Incredibly poor acting makes the teenagers subplot excruciatingly hard to sit through. The skin-crawling, cringe filled dialogue that G.O. Parsons script gives to these young actors borders on a grey area of not knowing whether it is supposed to be intentionally bad to fit into it’s B-grade vibe, or whether it is just truly awful dialogue. And that confusion does not make for an enjoyable experience, even in the “so-bad-it’s-good” sense.

But, anytime Cage is on screen, that is where the fun lies. The killings are brutal, his silent reactions to the robots creeping are hilarious and his nonchalant demeanor towards the annoying teenagers mirrors my thoughts towards them too. There is one side-story that involves Cage however, that adds an intricate, yet confusing layer to his character. The Janitor has a relationship with a pinball machine in the break area of the restaurant, and during his breaks between cleaning and killing demon robots, he is seen playing this machine with such passion… physical passion… border lining sexual passion. This is without a doubt an odd addition to the film, and honestly not one that plays into the story in any way, shape or form. However, it is this sort of oddity that does create a memorable feeling of absurdity that Willy’s Wonderland wants to leave you with once you’ve left the cinema.

This is a niche film. Some people will outright hate this movie and how dumb it is. But, if you’re the drunk row of body odour ridden 18 year-olds who snuck their own beers into the cinema and sounded like they thoroughly enjoyed what they were seeing – this movie is right up your alley.

A big shoutout to Dendy Cinemas who hooked me up with tickets to check this movie out! You can still catch this movie right now in cinemas – showing for 2 weeks before its VOD release on the 21st of April. Head to dendy.com.au to find session times for Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney!

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Written By

Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV nerd, talking about all the latest releases via 60 second video reviews on Instagram! Also, a contributing writer for Novastream and panellist on various podcasts for the Finely Taylored YouTube channel.

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