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.

RESIDENT EVIL: Welcome to Raccoon City

The Resident Evil films (that huge franchise that followed Milla Jovovich re-killing things and looking awesome all the time and where lots of things blew up and nothing really made sense) were hardly failures – yes they were as ropey as a Go Ape Vacation and had as much oscar-creed as a pile of bananas but did anyone care? Well, sure, unfortunately, it being based on a massively popular video game series with enough geeky fans to populate a moon, it meant a similarly massive proportion of its fan size are going to be pissed off that its a) not canon / not canon enough and b) was taking liberties with a perfectly good video game series story.

I agree, of course. I may not be the biggest fan of the Resident Evil games, but i’ve played a ton of them… and i sort of understand the basic plots because one of my pals has explained it to me once. Heck, i even think i owned a few of them. The remake of the original, the umbrella chronicles on rails-first-person-er, the one with the dude with his head in a bag with a chainsaw… oh, and i watched a grown man lose his shit during a VR session with one of the newer ones…but was i a fan? Hmmm i wouldn’t go that far.

But i understand why some peeps get pissed when films change things from the source material. I’ve ranted about this very thing elsewhere.

So when Paul WS Anderson’s string of rubbish masterpieces came to an end with “The Final Chapter” it seemed inevitable that somewhere down the line a reboot would occur.

But this was not what they wanted. They, being the fans.

This was a ham fisted attempt to tell the already established story of Resident Evil using enough tiny references to keep the fans happy and still tell a cohesive horror story… except somewhere down the line it went from 70% film to 30% Resi love letter to 30% film, 70% obscure reference to something else. Pretty much all the main characters appear, in much more PC skins, and we get to see shot-for-shot recreations of famous scenes (the first zombie turning his head towards the camera from way back when, remember the shot??), writing on the wall, a video of characters unnecessary to the immediate plot… meh. I got lost.

Maybe it is good. Maybe to truly enjoy this you have to be knee deep in the franchise, but if you’re that deep you’re not going to appreciate the unnecessaries – its not as if the characters needed actors anyway – they all look real enough.

And then in that case… why make this in the first place? Why not make another entry into the franchise altogether? A new chapter / spin off set in the franchise’s beloved and expansive world, with a standalone ploy AND some cheeky nods at the series.

Instead, a boring, flat mess, wasting the talents of Firestorm and Damian Dahrk, and the gorilla man from the (laugh laugh) Umbrella Academy. Poor.