Willy's Wonderland (2021)

Kevin Lewis

Running Time: 89 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant, David Sheftell, Kai Kadlec, Caylee Cowan, Terayle Hill, Christian Delgrosso, Jonathan Mercedes, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner

One of the joys cinema can grant us is the sheer variety on offer, suiting the viewer dependant on their mood. There are times when you fancy watching an exploration of life and love, with ideas that stay with us for quite some time. Just as valid are the other instances, when you're in the mood to have some fun, and share in the laughs with an audience. While the current circumstances have taken the audience aspect from many of us, it's now that delight is much needed, and seeing Nicolas Cage stomping on an animatronic Gorilla's head in a urinal delivers on the delight.

Driving fast in his car, our protagonist (Nicolas Cage) finds himself stranded in a remote town, with burst tyres. Unable to play the local mechanic, he makes a deal to work as a Janitor for one night, in an abandoned amusement park full of animatronic creatures. As night falls, these once happy mascots come to life, intent on murder.

As we see Nicolas Cage come into frame, resplendent in a leather jacket and sunglasses, we understand who he is without him uttering a word. Referred in the credits only as "The Janitor", we understand all that's necessary to know with this character. He cares for his flash car, to the point he's willing to work in an abandoned building which houses creepy robots. When the threat makes itself known, he seems mostly fed-up by the murderous creature, and doesn't let them get in the way of his regularly scheduled breaks to chug energy drinks. When Cage portrays The Janitor with such intensity, you believe he never views these bloodthirsty beings as a threat, and they should be fearful of him.

When it comes to the animatronic creatures, their terrific designs are brought alive with a combination of excellent costumes and dodgy visual effects. Once cuddly-looking in their heyday, their former looks are juxtaposed by how worn down they now appear, resembling the titular building in how neglected, filthy, and hazardous they are. There's no intention to define these antagonists by their creepy looks, each one feels distinctive in their own way, thanks to their unique personalities, the way they move, and their unique methods of attacking their prey.

Breaking things up are the teen characters, whose inclusion is a double-edged sword. Throwing them into the mix does stop things from becoming repetitive, while also offering the films biggest issue. Liv has a clear purpose in burning down Willy's, intent on eradicating such evil, but her friends don't feel as well defined. Between the irrational decisions they make, and their lacking characterisation, their biggest contribution appears to be raising the body count in such gruesome ways. This doesn't take away from what director Kevin Lewis and screenwriter G.O. Parsons have crafted; a fun treat which indulges in it's dark side, while delivering an assortment of earworms thanks to Émoi. Stay through the credits for some excellent tunes.

Willy's Wonderland is available on Digital Platforms from 12th February, and on DVD and Blu-Ray from 19th April