Willy’s Wonderland Image

Willy’s Wonderland

By Bradley Gibson | March 10, 2021

The artistry in this film is in its minimalism. Kevin Lewis conveys as much in the blank space as there is in the action. The risk inherent in that approach is that an audience that has never seen classic B horror films would miss much of the fun of Willy’s Wonderland. Every moment and character in G.O. Parsons’ script is a reference based on an archetype you’ve seen endlessly before. Even Cage is doing a parody of his best work, taking the piss out of his own roles.

Interestingly, a generation raised on the animatronic bands at Showbiz Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese has created multiple iterations of horror fiction based on those experiences. Those animatronics seem to stick with children as they grow up. In the same way that circus clowns traumatized a previous generation, now it’s the dead-eyed musty smelling robo-horrors singing overly cheery songs loud enough to almost drown out the clicks and whirs of pneumatic actuators and metal gears.

“…an exercise in action-horror stripped down to fundamental archetypes for speed and elegance…”

Despite the golden glow of achievement in a minimalist indie masterpiece, there is an animatronic elephant in the room that must be addressed. That is the similarity between Willy’s Wonderland and a video game series called Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF to the true believers). A film derived from FNAF has been in the works for some time, with many false starts and difficulties getting the production off the ground. The parallels between the hit game franchise and Willy’s Wonderland are striking.

With a couple of minor differences, the plot, such as it is, is the same premise. The fact that a low-budget knock-off hit the market first will undoubtedly be a thorn in the side for the producers of FNAF. Cage made the film first, to his credit, and anything that comes after will need to be better in order to be noticed (arguably, The Banana Splits Movie was truly first, though FNAF similarities, while present, are minimal).

Willy’s Wonderland is a violent, glorious riot of inside-joke horror tropes and Cage’s own best tribute to a genre he helped to create.

Willy's Wonderland (2021)

Directed: Kevin Lewis

Written: G.O. Parsons

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Willy's Wonderland Image

"…a violent, glorious, riot of inside-joke horror tropes and Cage’s own best tribute to a genre he helped to create"

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