I thought I would turn my brain off with a B grade Nicolas Cage flick. I got much more than I expected.
As I outlined on Thursday, I have been doing more hours than normal. After a long week, I took Saturday off to rest and recover. Well, the trailer for Willy’s Wonderland hit my feed in the morning, as it is now available on Video on Demand.
After watching the trailer, I had to watch it. Five Nights at Freddy’s with Nic Cage fighting back? I thought it would be a bit of mindless fun.
What did I just watch?
The trailer does a pretty good job of setting up the story. A drifter makes a deal to clean a run down themed restaurant. He isn’t told it is filled with homicidal animatronics.
The setting is familiar to many – Willy’s Wonderland looks like a parody of Five Nights at Freddy’s. Well, the comparison is there, but somehow Willy’s Wonderland comes out being so much more.
The review that isn’t a review
I am going to tell you why I enjoyed Willy’s Wonderland so much. What I am not going to do is ‘review’ the movie. I have zero movie-making knowledge (just check out my First Impressions!
What not to expect
Willy’s Wonderland isn’t an original story in many ways. Even ignoring the Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) comparison, there are many movie staples at play here.
The idea of haunted animatronics makes the FNAF comparison natural, but that really isn’t what Willy’s Wonderland is about. It can be read into that way, but really Willy’s Wonderland is one of those old school B movie homages than a gaming parody. That was just a happy coincedence.
Nicolas Cage plays the drifter going through a small town with a secret. There is a group of teenagers made up of friends with the ‘expected’ stereotypes. The town people are in on the conspiracy, and there are definite ‘bad guys’ that the drifter must deal with.
The dialogue is basic but moves the story along nicely. There was an obviously low budget at work here. The actual camera used has a high-end vlogger feel about it. That could have something to do with the VPN and streaming though.
Seriously, very little new ground is broken here. Willy’s Wonderland will most likely not be up for any awards. But that isn’t the whole story.
Why I think Willy’s Wonderland is a potential sleeper hit
Willy’s Wonderland has something that has been missing for many of us for the last year – fun. The creators knew what they were working with, and fully embraced everything about it.
The animatronics are obviously actors in suits. This isn’t a negative though. The movement and individuality of the animatronics come across beautifully. If the creators tried to go low-end CGI, the entire feeling would have been ruined. As it is, they nailed it.
The Willy’s Wonderland restaurant itself is also incredibly well done, and obviously where a large part of the budget was spent. It is believable as a run-down restaurant and character in its own right at the same time.
Watching Nicolas Cage as The Janitor (yes, that’s his credited role) is very much a Cage version of a silent protagonist. Using nothing but facial expressions and body language, there are definitely ‘full Cage’ flashes happening here.
Then there is the way the audience can read the story as they wish. I need to talk about a couple of parts of the story to explain, but there aren’t any spoilers following.
The agreement made was for The Janitor to clean Willy’s Wonderland in one night, and his car would be fixed for free. It’s hard work, so he is told specifically to take breaks. Finally, he is presented with an official Willy’s Wonderland shirt, and locked in for the night.
The Janitor then proceeds to clean. There is a fight where he dispatches the first attacker, he then covers his wound with tape and grabs a clean shirt before continuing with his cleaning.
Why does he do this? Why does he stay and continue cleaning? Is it because he is a ‘man’s man’ and is sticking to the agreement, or is it because it’s a game mechanic and he has reached the next level?
Both points of view work, and fit well. Neither viewpoint is important to the story overall, but depending on your familiarity with game mechanics, Willy’s Wonderland gives you multiple reasons for understanding The Janitor’s actions.
And this isn’t the only story element I appreciated
Films like Cabin in the Woods or From Dusk Till Dawn have you in a situation that you don’t fully understand. You can follow along, but the initial feeling is ‘Why is this happening?’. This is the film style of Willy’s Wonderland.
Willy’s Wonderland may not have an original backstory, but it is more fleshed out than many horror movies I have seen. Not only that, you get different viewpoints from everyone involved without being weighed down by exposition.
Willy’s Wonderland works as a story that stands on its own. Depending on your background, you will have certain assumptions played with, and it works for so many audiences.
So you recommend this movie?
Willy’s Wonderland isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s for far more people than the trailer implies.
There are horror elements in use, but honestly, I would put Willy’s Wonderland as a dark comedy with horror elements far more than a horror film.
If you ever wish you could fight back in FNAF, then Willy’s Wonderland gives you a glimpse at what that would be like. If you have no idea what FNAF is, then you will be comfortable with the setting and able to follow along easily.
The most surprising thing for me is that when the ‘official’ FNAF film comes out, there is an out of nowhere standard to beat with Willy’s Wonderland.
Just like I said in the title – Willy’s Wonderland shouldn’t be as good as it actually is, but it is. And I enjoy it in all of its goofy glory.
Until next time,