Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 29 minutes, Director – Kevin Lewis
After his car breaks down, a stranger (Nicolas Cage) is tasked with cleaning a soon-to-reopening kids party space overnight, however the animatronic characters are coming alive to attack.
One of the maddest scenes in 2018’s chaotically enjoyable Mom And Dad involves Nicolas Cage destroying a pool table while angrily grunting the ‘Hokey Pokey’. The actor’s latest starring feature sees him involved in a fight set to ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees And Toes’, and another scene where he takes down an animatronic gorilla with a plunger. It’s weird, it’s chaotic and it’s very recent Nicolas Cage.
The brief for Willy’s Wonderland in a number of ways is shorter than the plot description. It’s a cross between a stereotypical modern Nicolas Cage film and a dodgy Direct-To-DVD 2000’s teen horror. Cage stars as a stranger simply credited as The Janitor, as his car breaks down in a strange town he’s told that it can be fixed if he spends the night cleaning a long-abandoned kids party space for a grand reopening. However, the various animatronic animals seem to be alive, attempting to kill Cage’s silent energy drink binging, pinball playing part-time cleaner. Meanwhile a group of local teens appear to have previous experience with the out-of-the-way centre known as Willy’s Wonderland. On the same night they set out to burn the building to the heavily graffitied building to the ground, however when trying to get Cage’s figure out they find themselves trapped inside and also being hunted down.
For those who have been waiting for the upcoming Five Nights At Freddy’s film this may serve as amusement enough until then. The scares certainly aren’t there, but there’s plenty of silly bursts of action – particularly when focusing on the quiet protagonist of the film – to be found. There’s even chance for one or two mild moments of humour around the central character that help to pick things up as they begin to dip – The Janitor sees a threatening message written in blood on a freshly cleaned mirror and, otherwise ignoring it, simply sighs that he has to clean something up again.
In the instances where there is dialogue, mostly focusing on the fight for survival of the teenage group, the dialogue itself certainly feels basic and as if from a poorly aged teen horror. Lines feel cliché and almost stereotypical of the characters types, and not in an amusing or aware manner. It could be seen as lucky then that the characters split off quickly and we spend small amounts of time with each one, and predominantly continue to look in on Cage with his regular dance-infused pinball breaks.
All of this backing on to the various attacks from, and brief fights with, bulky worn-out robot creatures, such as a chameleon, an ostrich, an owl, a weasel and more. It’s often as daft as it sounds, and alternatively as clunky as it sounds too. And this likely won’t be to everyone’s taste. Yet, despite the sometimes testing state of the film there’s just about enough amusement to be found in the often brief actions of Cage’s central figure to make this a not too low quality, lacking affair.
The dialogue is certainly weak, and the film suffers its dips, however there’s also enough dumb action within Willy’s Wonderland to appeal to Nic Cage fans, and perhaps just about those still waiting for the Five Nights At Freddy’s adaptation.