Released: 21st April
Seen: 31st May
It’s fairly well known that right now a Five Nights At Freddy’s movie is sitting in development hell where it’s lingered for the last 5 years. In that time it’s changed studios and directors and gone through many, many scripts. Currently they are talking about shooting this thing sometime this year, but we’ve heard that song and dance before. The wait has gotten so long for this movie that we’ve already had one knockoff beat it to release, in the form of The Banana Splits Movie. Well, now Willy’s Wonderland is here to show you another version of the Five Nights formula… and this time, I think they got the tone right.
Willy’s Wonderland follows a mysterious loner who is only known as The Janitor (Nicolas Cage) who is just driving through a small town when his tires blow up due to accidentally driving over a spike strip that just happened to be out there. Without any money on him and no ATM’s, he makes a deal to get his tires fixed. All he has to do is some light cleaning at the local family eatery Willy’s Wonderland and if he does that all night he’ll have his car by morning. Seems like a fair trade so he does it… except, oh no, the door to the restaurant is locked and the animatronics seem to be moving in ways they probably shouldn’t be moving. Maybe that spike strip was no accident.
Now, I want it noted that the makers of Willy’s Wonderland state that they were not in any way influenced by Five Nights At Freddies… it’s just a giant coincidence that this film features a set of possessed animatronic animals who perform at a pizzeria with a long sordid history that includes multiple dead children and serial killers hiding in the building. It’s just a coincidence that the main protagonist is silent and seemingly unable/unwilling to leave the building and spends all night doing his job while trying to avoid/kill the creatures coming to get him… coincidence, I’m sure of it.
The thing is, this is the exact kind of ridiculous movie I was hoping to get out of the Five Nights franchise. A silent protagonist going through the motions, randomly killing a bunch of disturbing looking animatronics mixed in with the occasional moment of elaborate practical gore when one of the animatronics gets their hands on someone stupid. Willy’s Wonderland is littered with a bunch of very stupid characters in the form of a gang of teenagers who want to destroy Willy’s Wonderland but they end up inside the restaurant where they become cannon fodder for a solid body count. I didn’t know I needed to see an animatronic cartoon crocodile chew on a couple having sex in a birthday play room, but that’s what I saw and apparently needed.
When I say these characters are stupid, I mean they may as well all come with neon signs that say “I’m here to die” and stand in the corner until it’s their turn to be brutally bloodied up by a demented furry. No one in Willy’s Wonderland, maybe with the exception of the Janitor and a young woman named Liv (Emily Tosta), have a brain in their heads, and frankly Liv isn’t that bright either. This is a gaggle of kids who know that the animatronics are alive and deadly and yet they still stop to watch Willy and his gang perform a musical number, is it any wonder most of these characters will die?
Normally, a very stupid bunch of characters in a horror movie would annoy me. Momentary stupidness in certain situations is something I can work past but constant terminal stupidity? That can get on your nerves… unless you’re watching a film that’s already got a stupid concept, in which case I can embrace the dumbness and enjoy it whole heartedly. Sure, I want to scream at every stupid character to run and get out of the building that clearly has very thin walls and large chairs that could break just about every window… but I just saw someone get pecked to death by a robotic emu, so logic and reason left long ago.
Willy’s Wonderland is stupid on every single level, from its very dumb characters to gloriously stupid fight sequences (there’s a fight scene set to “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” for crying out loud) and it’s almost toxically stupid love of lens flares. Seriously, there is so much lens flare here that even JJ Abrams would go “OK, tone it down a notch” but somehow this mix of utter brainlessness is one of the most entertaining things I’ve witnessed. Willy’s Wonderland is a movie you watch with friends and some beers and laugh your asses off at because how are you meant to take this thing seriously? You can’t, it’s impossible, so just surrender and enjoy the wanton stupidity on full display.