Willy's Wonderland is a 2021 American action comedy horror film directed by Kevin Lewis from a screenplay written by G. O. Parsons. The film stars Nicolas Cage, who also serves as producer, along with Emily Tosta, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kadlec, Christian Del Grosso, Caylee Cowan, Terayle Hill, Jonathan Mercedes, David Sheftell, and Beth Grant. It follows a quiet drifter who is tricked into cleaning up an abandoned family entertainment center haunted by eight murderous animatronic characters.
|Directed by||Kevin Lewis|
|Screenplay by||G. O. Parsons|
|Edited by||Ryan Liebert|
|Distributed by||Screen Media Films|
The project was announced in October 2019, with screenwriter Parsons having conceived the idea based on his 2016 short film Wally's Wonderland, which was also the script's original name. It caught Cage's attention, who shortly after agreed to participate as both an actor and a producer. Lewis was hired as director in December 2019 while the cast joined in February 2020. Prior to its release, the film received a small cult following due to sharing its premise with the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise.
Willy's Wonderland was originally set for a worldwide theatrical release on October 30, 2020, but was postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, it was released through video on demand, with a simultaneous limited theatrical release in the United States, on February 12, 2021 by Screen Media Films. The film received mixed reviews from critics.
A quiet drifter ends up stranded in remote Hayesville, Nevada, when his vehicle breaks down after running over a spike strip. He is picked up by mechanic Jed Love, who takes him to Willy's Wonderland, a once-successful abandoned family entertainment center. Owner Tex Macadoo offers him work as a night-shift janitor in exchange for repairing his vehicle. Meanwhile, teenager Liv Hawthorne is handcuffed by her caretaker and Hayesville's sheriff Eloise Lund due to her previous attempts to set the place on fire. When Lund leaves, Liv's friends, Chris Muley, Kathy Barnes, Aaron Powers, Bob McDaniel, and Dan Lorraine, come and release her.
While the Janitor begins his cleaning duties, Tex and Jed leave until the next morning, but not before leaving him locked in the building. The restaurant's now-withered eight animatronic mascots — Willy Weasel, Arty Alligator, Cammy Chameleon, Ozzie Ostrich, Tito Turtle, Knighty Knight, Gus Gorilla, and Siren Sara — are revealed to be alive and aggressive. Ozzie Ostrich attacks the Janitor, who beats Ozzie to death with a mop. Meanwhile, Liv and her friends arrive at Willy's Wonderland, dousing the perimeter with gasoline until Liv decides to enter through the vents to get the Janitor out. Inside, the Janitor is attacked by Gus Gorilla in the restrooms; he kills Gus by curb stomping his face into a urinal. In the vents, Liv is chased by Arty Alligator but she escapes into a fairy-themed room where Siren Sara attacks her.
Liv manages to fend off Sara and encounters the Janitor, who ignores Liv's warnings about the animatronics and refuses to leave the building. Outside, the teens climb the roof, which collapses, causing them to fall into the building. While the Janitor cleans the kitchen, Liv explains to him that Willy's Wonderland was originally owned by Jerry Robert Willis, a notorious serial killer, and his psychotic cannibalistic partners, who often murdered unsuspecting families for pleasure. Eventually discovered by the police, they committed a satanic ritual to transfer their souls into the animatronic characters. When she finishes, several animatronics come to life and start attacking the group.
In the ensuing chaos, Knighty Knight impales Aaron with a sword, Siren Sara and Tito Turtle pursue and devour Dan, and Arty Alligator mauls Kathy and Bob to death. The Janitor manages to kill both Knighty and Arty with Liv's help. Stalked by Cammy Chameleon in an arcade, Chris calls Sheriff Lund for help; she goes there with deputy Evan Olson upon finding out that Liv is in the restaurant. On the way, Lund reveals to Evan that after Willy's Wonderland was shut down, the animatronics continued murdering people around Hayesville until she, Tex and Jed made a deal with them. Over the years, they tricked stranded drifters into cleaning up the place, offering them as sacrifices to the animatronics in order to stop their killing spree. Liv's parents were among the victims and a guilty Sheriff Lund adopted her.
When the Janitor and Liv arrive at the arcade, Cammy snaps Chris' neck, killing him. The Janitor and Liv subdue Cammy and attempt to leave the restaurant, only to be stopped by Sheriff Lund and Evan. Lund handcuffs the Janitor and leaves him to die as Evan takes Liv away. While driving, Evan is attacked and killed by a stowaway Tito as Liv escapes. Back at the restaurant, the Janitor kills Cammy and subdues Sara. Enraged, Sheriff Lund tries to lure Willy Weasel to kill the Janitor, only for Willy to come to life and tear her in half. Willy and the Janitor fight each other until the Janitor overpowers and rips Willy's head off, killing him.
The next morning, Tex and Jed return to the building and find it completely clean, with the animatronics destroyed. The Janitor receives his repaired vehicle and invites Liv to accompany him. While Tex and Jed discuss planning to reopen Willy's Wonderland, Siren Sara suddenly appears and sets their car on fire with gasoline. All three are killed in a massive explosion that also destroys the entire restaurant. As the sun rises, the Janitor and Liv drive out of the town, running into and killing a wandering Tito Turtle along the way.
- Nicolas Cage as the Janitor
- Emily Tosta as Liv Hawthorne
- Beth Grant as Sheriff Eloise Lund
- David Sheftell as Deputy Evan Olson
- Ric Reitz as Tex Macadoo
- Chris Warner as Jed Love
- Kai Kadlec as Chris Muley
- Caylee Cowan as Kathy Barnes
- Terayle Hill as Bob McDaniel
- Christian Del Grosso as Aaron Powers
- Jonathan Mercedes as Dan Lorraine
- Grant Cramer as Jerry Robert Willis
- Chris Padilla as Carl Hawthorne
- Olga Cramer as Judy Hawthorne
- Kamia Arrington as Little Liv
|Willy Weasel||Jiri Stanek||Émoi|
|Siren Sara||Jessica Graves|
|Cammy Chameleon||Taylor Towery||Madisun Leigh|
|Ozzie Ostrich||B. J. Guyer||Abel Arias|
|Tito Turtle||Chris Schmidt Jr.|
|Gus Gorilla||Billy Bussey||Mark Gagliardi|
|Arty Alligator||Christopher Bradley||Unvoiced|
|Knighty Knight||Duke Jackson|
The film was first announced in October 2019 by Screen Media Films after screenwriter and producer G. O. Parsons was advised to create a film to expand his career, but was displeased with his first attempt, a short film titled Wally's Wonderland. Parsons put the script on Blood List, seeking to have it produced as a full-length film. Shortly after, Deadline Hollywood confirmed that Nicolas Cage had joined the cast after the script, which became popular on the site, caught his attention. Cage also agreed to produce the film along with producers Jeremy Davis from JD Entertainment and veteran actor-turned-producer Grant Cramer from Landafar Entertainment, in collaboration with Mike Nilon from Cage's Saturn Films. Kevin Lewis was hired as director while the cast, including Emily Tosta, Beth Grant and Ric Reitz, joined in February 2020.
After the announcement, the film received a small cult following, with many comparing it to the Five Nights at Freddy's video game series, although Parsons and Lewis deny any resemblance. The custom pinball machine featured in the film was based on the 1982 Gottlieb table Devil's Dare. Certain changes were also made during production; the title was changed from Wally's Wonderland to Willy's Wonderland due to legal issues while original animatronic characters Douglas Dog, Pauly Penguin, Beary Bear, Pirate Pete, and Regina Rabbit were replaced with Arty Alligator, Tito Turtle, Gus Gorilla, Knighty Knight, and Cammy Chameleon.
Filming and designEdit
Principal photography began in February 2020 for a month in various parts of Atlanta, Georgia. The crew used a desolated bowling alley in the Sprayberry Crossing shopping center in East Cobb, Marietta for the fictional Willy's Wonderland family entertainment center, setting-up a huge basecamp with housing facilities for the crew members due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Special effects for the film were done by production designer Molly Coffee, whose expertise in design and fabrication with puppetry helped to create the visual movement and appearance for the eight animatronic characters.
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||February 12, 2021|
On February 12, 2021, Filmtrax LTD released the score soundtrack for the film composed by Émoi. Producer Grant Cramer performed a track titled "Just The Way I Roll", which appeared in the film's end credits.
All tracks are written by Émoi.
|1.||"The Birthday Song And Willy's Jingle"||0:54|
|2.||"Road to Hayesville"||2:06|
|4.||"Would You Mind If I Keep You in Mind"||2:25|
|8.||"The Bathroom From Hell"||1:55|
|9.||"Clap Your Hands"||0:52|
|13.||"We're All Friends"||0:56|
|14.||"Super Happy Fun Room"||0:32|
|15.||"It Never Bothered You Before"||1:40|
|16.||"A Dark History"||2:44|
|17.||"Six Little Chickens"||0:45|
|18.||"The Death Anthem"||2:42|
|20.||"In Town We Knew What Was Happening"||3:15|
|22.||"Head Shoulders Knees Toes"||1:44|
|25.||"The Janitor and Liv"||1:12|
|26.||"Just The Way I Roll"||2:41|
Willy's Wonderland was originally scheduled for a worldwide theatrical release on October 30, 2020, but was removed from the calendar date due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing the closure of theaters across the globe. It was announced on January 15, 2021 that the film would be available for digital distribution and was eventually released through video on demand and a limited theatrical release on February 12, 2021.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62% based on 79 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Willy's Wonderland isn't quite as much fun as its premise would suggest -- but it's still got Nicolas Cage beating the hell out of bloodthirsty animatronics, which is nice." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 44 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Variety's Owen Gleiberman wrote: "Kevin Lewis's giant-furry-funhouse-mascot slasher movie knows how preposterous it is but plays it straight". Nick De Semlyn of Empire gave the film a score of three out of five stars, concluding that, "though the dialogue and plotting are no great shakes, that commitment to the concept, combined with Cage's swaggering soda-swigger, is enough to make this a good time." IGN's Matt Fowler rated the film six out of ten, writing that "There's not enough here to score high marks, but there's cartoonish carnage aplenty and that warrants a passing grade." Anton Bitel from VODzilla.com awarded the film a score of seven out of ten, saying: "It is set in an amusement centre for children, but comes with adult doses of foul-mouthed language, sex, gore and death. Its scenarios feel a little rote, but are enlivened by the craziness that Cage brings to everything".
Kimberley Elizabeth from Nightmare On Film Street gave the film a score of 7.5/10, commenting: "Nicolas Cage['s] unique brand of kickassery is the jelly to this animatronic PB & J Horror sandwich". Alix Turner of Ready Steady Cut wrote: "Daft plot, fabulous fight scenes, teenagers in peril and plenty of gore. Sure, the film could have been better, but it didn't exactly need to be: this was thoroughly entertaining" and gave to it a rating of 3.5 on 5. Charles Barfield of The Playlist gave a similar opinion and rated the film with a "B+". Nicolás Delgadillo of DiscussingFilm.net called the film "unapologetically ridiculous" and "a bizarre hidden gem thrown into Cage's already vast and eclectic body of work."
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