Willy’s Wonderland: A stoner fever dream come to life.

So a friend tells me “Hey, there’s a new movie with Nic Cage fighting a Satanic Chuck E Cheese.” to which my immediate response was “Oh really????” right before I looked up what will no doubt go down as a modern cult classic. 

Now I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not a fan of gore or torture or the over-the-top realism that’s the big thing right now. While it is a horror movie, it’s more of a stoned teenager’s daydream than anything even remotely plausible. It’s got a few cheap scares but it plays out more like a funhouse than a haunted house and even what little human blood is featured is so unrealistic that you have to roll your eyes. 

It’s cheesy but not cheap. 

Making a movie with a premise like this has got to be a difficult task. You know that no one will take it seriously yet, you don’t want it to be so over the top that people can’t connect to the story. It’s a matter of knowing how to play the cliche without being played by the cliche. This film walks that line surprisingly well and knows when to be tense and when to have fun. 

Hat’s off to the production crew who did a great job with the nostalgic details in the movie. The style is spot on and there’s enough of it to really make you think this place could have existed. A lot of movies would have spared on this but these guys went out of their way to build a convincing backstory for such a twisted concept. They were able to create an immersive world on a tiny set that helps pull you in and get you invested in the story. 

Nic Cage is a producer

This means he had a whole lot of flex with how weird his character is and it’s clear that he had a lot of fun. From the muscle car to the boots, Nic is letting you know he’s the strong silent type. Even the intro is shot in a way that you don’t see his face until the end with a grand reveal showing you he means business. You would laugh at just about anyone else doing this but Nic is so immersed in the character that it works. He’s so bad that he actually makes it convincing. 

He has no backstory other then some dogtags hanging in his rearview telling you, once again, he’s a badass. What’s even more bizzare is his characters complete lack of surprise when first attacked by the machines. Listen, I don’t care who you are or what kind or weird shit you’ve seen, this kind of thing is going to make anyone step back and shake their head. He acts like he’s already done this a few times and that it’s more of an inconvenience then anything else. If that’s the case, I want to see a movie about the other bizzare adventures he’s been through (my money is on space zombies).  

It’s a fresh(ish) premise. 

Let me just state that, as a child, I had several birthday parties at the old school Chuck E Cheese. This was when the rat was fat and had huge creepy-ass eyes, not this new school hipster-looking thing they use now. Who the fuck ever approved the original design obviously hated children and yet found a way to make a fortune traumatizing them and, as I type this, they are now my new hero. Anyways, the movie. 

Through a series of events that could only happen in a B horror movie, Nic’s character, who’s never named because badass doesn’t need a name, gets stuck in some rural town where he agrees to spend the night at Willys Wonderland getting the place ready to reopen in exchange for his car getting fixed. But of course, all is not as it seems and it turns out that, get this, the Animatronics are possessed by the Satanic cannibal cult that originally owned the place. The plot get’s a bit weirder from there and then throws in a few stupid teenagers to help jack up the body count. It’s predictable yet still entertaining enough to make you want to keep watching til the end.

Cheep thrills at every turn

The movie isn’t scary at all and even the action looks like a high school kid choriograhed it based off this one time he saw two guys fighting in the bathroom. Yes, it’s intense but theres never a sense of any real danger despite the very serious grunts and groans given by the unnamed drifter as he dismantles the evil machines one by one. 

Even some of the scenes were shot in a way to make sure “Hey, are you paying attention, this is important, we know our audience is probably high as fuck but this is a plot point” kind of way. Nothing in this movie is subtle at all. 

By no means is it a cinematic masterpiece but kinda, in a way it is. In a large part, movies are about escapism. You pull the audience in, take em for a ride and let em forget about their own world for a bit. Yes, cinema is a great tool for art, blah blah blah. But from time to time you just want to relax and not have to think and enjoy something that was created for no other purpose than to be fun and entertain the viewer. I say this with the utmost respect but it’s clear that no one, from the writers to the animators to the catering staff took this flick seriously and instead, just wanted to do something cool and that vibe carries over into the final product. It’s mindless entertainment at its finest. 

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