Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

A man is driving a fast car. Its wheels blow out after driving over a police spike strip. The man gets a lift from a local mechanic, who then charges a couple of hundred. Yet, he has already done all the work, THEN states he won’t take card and that (conveniently) all the cash machines are dysfunctional. (they didn’t even bother getting the internet – but the cash machines are all there anyway for some reason). So he demands that this poor newcomer has to ‘work for the fix’; he’s put in touch with the owner of a disgraced theme park called Willy’s Wonderland. Spend one night as the cleaner, and the car will be waiting in the morning.

Little does the man know that inside the wonderland lives a terrible secret, and the souls of psychopathic child molesters are living inside a troop of grotesque animatronic creatures.

Thus plays the plot of Willy’s Wonderland.

Its utterly utterly stupid. Who the hell are we going to get to play the loner with literally no lines in the entire film. It would need to be someone of zero calibre, zero care and zero fucks. The film is a guaranteed shitfest with the Oscar quality of a mouldy watermelon.

Nicolas Cage? Aye. Sounds right.

Quite why Cage’s character doesn’t speak is one thing; it actually makes for some of the best non-dialogue acting we’ve seen in a man. But what surprises me even more is the man’s tendency to GO ABSOLUTELY BAT SHIT CRAZY during fights with the aforementioned animatronic bad guys. It’s a completely unexplained phenomenon. He just starts screaming and hitting the things with two batons made from a mop as if…and maybe this is a thing… he’s playing a character with an established image, previously unknown to the audience. Kind of like in a film about…say, Half-Life, there would be a secret proportion of the viewers that would grin like idiots when the man dispatched a monster with a wrench. Know what I’m saying? Is Nicolas Cage’s “janitor” from a comic book origin story who used wooden batons in a previous medium? Well, the real answers No, but who knows what crazy back story Cage created for the role – and then forgot to inform the filmmakers.

Unfortunately, the opening salvo of film-time is actually quite good. We’re given some good leering comedy moments of non-dialogue, then when Cage enters the wonderland we get some truly creepy horror film moments of tension. Then the first fight – the Ostrich – starts and it all goes to shit, because the direction falls into a pit of gore / oil and doesn’t get out. The editing is erratic and unchoreographed nonsense, the music is poorly chosen and Cage’s stoic action hero becomes his stereotype loony.

And then the story gets explained in the awful subplots with the ‘supporting characters’ – demonic possession of child molesters into the animatronics and such.

45 minutes later, you just want it to end – but then it does end after a further 45 minutes of awfulness, and you wished it had done something different.

The big problem is that with a bit of time and a bit of effort, this could have been good. It could have been a cult classic-in-the-making (like…The Guest, maybe?) But it really isn’t. And we have to live with that. Please, Nicolas. More Pig. More Joe. Even more Mandy.  Batshit crazy is brilliant, but batshit rubbish is just disappointing.