Willy's Wonderland

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Willy's Wonderland
Willys wonderland.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKevin Lewis
Screenplay byG. O. Parsons
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyDavid Newbert
Edited byRyan Liebert
Music byÉmoi
Production
companies
  • Landmark Studio Group
  • Baffin Media LTD
  • Saturn Films
  • JD Entertainment
  • Landafar Entertainment
Distributed byScreen Media Films
Release date
  • February 12, 2021 (2021-02-12) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$5 million[1]
Box office$457,144[2][3]

Willy's Wonderland is a 2021 American action comedy horror film directed by Kevin Lewis from a screenplay by G. O. Parsons.[4] The film stars Nicolas Cage, who also served 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.

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 agreed to participate as both an actor and a producer.[5] Lewis was hired as director in December 2019 while the cast joined in February 2020.[6] Prior to its release, the film received a small cult following due to sharing its premise with the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise.[6]

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.

Plot[edit]

When his car catches a flat tire on a remote country road, a quiet drifter ends up stranded outside of Hayesville, Nevada. Mechanic Jed Love picks him up and tows his car into town, but the drifter is unable to pay for the repairs. Owner Tex Macadoo offers to allow him to work as a night-shift janitor at Willy's Wonderland, a once-successful abandoned family entertainment center, in exchange for repairing his vehicle. Tex and Jed then leave him locked in the building. Meanwhile, teenager Liv Hawthorne gets handcuffed by her parental guardian, Hayesville's sheriff Eloise Lund, due to her previous attempts to burn down Willy's Wonderland. When Lund leaves, Liv's friends Chris Muley, Kathy Barnes, Aaron Powers, Bob McDaniel, and Dan Lorraine come and release her.

As the Janitor begins his duties, the restaurant's now-withered eight animatronic mascots—Willy Weasel, Arty Alligator, Cammy Chameleon, Ozzie Ostrich, Knighty Knight, Tito Turtle, Gus Gorilla, and Siren Sara—are revealed to be alive and homicidal. Ozzie attacks the Janitor, who beats Ozzie to death with a mop. While her friends douse the perimeter with gasoline, Liv decides to enter Willy's Wonderland through the vents to get the Janitor out. Meanwhile, the Janitor is attacked by Gus in the restrooms; he kills him by stomping his face into a urinal. In the vents, Liv is chased by Arty, but she escapes into a fairy-themed room where Sara attacks her. Liv manages to fend off Sara and encounters the Janitor, who ignores her warnings about the animatronics and refuses to leave.

Outside, Liv's friends climb to the roof, which collapses, causing them to fall into the building. While the Janitor cleans the kitchen, Liv explains that Willy's Wonderland was originally owned by notorious serial killer Jerry Robert Willis and his seven psychotic cannibalistic partners, who often murdered unsuspecting families by luring them into the Super Happy Fun Room. Eventually discovered by the authorities, they committed a Satanic ritual to transfer their souls into the animatronics before committing suicide. When she finishes, a few of the animatronics awaken and attack the group. In the ensuing chaos, Knighty impales Aaron with his sword, Sara and Tito devour Dan alive, and Arty mauls Kathy and Bob to death while they have sex.

With Liv standing in awe, the Janitor decapitates Knighty and breaks Arty's jaws, killing them both. Stalked by Cammy in an arcade, Chris calls Lund for help; she goes there with deputy sheriff Evan Olson upon learning 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 random travelers into cleaning up the building, offering them as sacrifices to the animatronics to stop their killing spree. A young Liv and her parents were among the victims with Liv being the only survivor and a guilty Lund adopting her.

When the Janitor and Liv arrive at the arcade, Cammy snaps Chris' neck, killing him. They subdue Cammy and attempt to leave before Lund and Evan stop them. 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 injures Tito and escapes. Back at the restaurant, the Janitor subdues Sara, and twists Cammy's head, killing her. Enraged, Lund tries to lure Willy to kill the Janitor, only for Willy to tear her in half. Willy and the Janitor fight each other until the Janitor rips his head off, killing him.

The next morning, Tex and Jed return to the building and find it completely clean, with the animatronics missing. The Janitor receives his repaired vehicle and invites Liv to accompany him. While Tex and Jed discuss planning to re-open Willy's Wonderland, 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 Hayesville, running into and killing a wandering Tito along the way.

Cast[edit]

Human cast[edit]

Nicolas Cage stars as the Janitor
  • 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 Jim Hawthorne
  • Olga Cramer as Judy Hawthorne
  • Kamia Arrington as Little Liv

Animatronic cast[edit]

Character Performer Voice
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

Also appearing in the film are Jason Tyler as Eric Miller, a construction worker hired to demolish the restaurant; Ryan Kightlinger as a biker hired as a previous janitor; Joseph and Jessica Teagle as a Hippie couple also hired as previous janitors; Lawreen K. Yakkel, Ashann Bachan, Kevin Brown, Eduardo Lozano, Nathaniel Smith Jr., and D. J. Stavropoulos as members of Jerry Robert Willis' satanic cult; Michael Woodruff, J. J. Madaris, Robert Howell, Chris Speck, Benton Eden, and Elliott Boswell as ATF agents; Jared Soto as a homeless man; Kandace Lee as a smoker killed by Willy Weasel, and Miles Woodruff as a birthday boy from the flashbacks.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

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.[7] He put the script on Blood List, seeking to have it produced as a full-length film.[8] Shortly after, Deadline Hollywood confirmed that Nicolas Cage had joined the cast after the script, which became popular on the site, caught his attention.[9] 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.[6] Kevin Lewis was hired as director while the cast, including Emily Tosta, Beth Grant and Ric Reitz, joined in February 2020.[10]

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 denied any similarities. The custom pinball machine in the film was based on the 1982 Gottlieb table Devil's Dare.[11] Certain changes were made during production; the title was changed from Wally's Wonderland to Willy's Wonderland due to legal issues; and 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 design[edit]

Principal photography began in February 2020 for a month in various parts of Atlanta, Georgia.[12] 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.[13] 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.[13]

Music[edit]

Willy's Wonderland:
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Émoi
ReleasedFebruary 12, 2021
GenreSoundtrack
Length53:51
LabelFilmtrax LTD
ProducerÉmoi

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.[14]

All tracks are written by Émoi.

No.TitleLength
1."The Birthday Song And Willy's Jingle"0:54
2."Road to Hayesville"2:06
3."The Janitor"2:31
4."Would You Mind If I Keep You in Mind"2:25
5."Face Off"3:20
6."Pinball Romance"1:19
7."Ozzie Ostrich"2:21
8."The Bathroom From Hell"1:55
9."Clap Your Hands"0:52
10."Gus Gorilla"1:27
11."Arty Alligator"2:39
12."Siren Sara"1:45
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
19."Knighty Knight"1:45
20."In Town We Knew What Was Happening"3:15
21."Cammy Chameleon"3:22
22."Head Shoulders Knees Toes"1:44
23."Tito Turtle"0:46
24."Willy Weasel"3:11
25."The Janitor and Liv"1:12
26."Just The Way I Roll"2:41
27."Willy's Wonderland"3:02
Total length:53:51

Marketing[edit]

On January 29, 2021, to promote the film, G. O. Parsons announced on his Twitter feed that original Willy's Wonderland T-shirts identical to the staff shirt Nicolas Cage wears in the film, would be available.[15]

Comic book series[edit]

On June 25, 2021, Parsons confirmed that American Mythology Productions would release a comic book series serving as a prequel to the film. Its first issue was released in October 2021. It centers on the backstories of the animatronic characters. Jerry Robert Willis is an American serial killer who preys on families who hire him as a professional photographer out of some sadistic pleasure. Siren Sara is depicted as a dance teacher who, upon seeing her assistant, Debbie, making out with Gary, her boyfriend (or possible husband), suddenly snaps and kills them both with an ax. Soon after, Willis is convicted of the killings and Sara is also detained. They team up in their satanic pact to kill everyone.

In the second comic, the backstory of Gus the Gorilla is revealed. He is depicted as a zookeeper who is socially impaired. Upon being reprimanded at the hands of his boss for feeding one of the gorillas a banana, he snaps suddenly and beats her into oblivion, and is captured by law enforcement. Later on, it is revealed that the Cammy Chameleon animatronic is a woman going by the last name of "Love" and has a split personality in her deranged, psychopathic, and child-like immature mind, and her normal shy persona in the same comic and is revealed to be Jed Love's sister. It is revealed that the Arty Alligator animatronic is possessed by former art teacher turned infamous serial killer Arthur Allen, also called "The Bloody Banksy", who mauled people to death and then made artwork with their blood, declaring the world to be a blank canvas, and he is giving it color with each murder. Tito the Turtle is an unnamed laborer who, upon being ridiculed for his love of turtles, he killed every single last one of his co-workers, and was caught shortly after where he met Jerry Robert Willis and Love, joining the "Crazy 8". The third comic was released on March 30, 2022.[16] Showing the origins of Ozzie Ostrich and Knighty Knight. Ozzie Ostrich is revealed to be a serial killer going by the epithet "The Midnight Strangler". After his abusive mother strangled him so hard his vocal cords stopped working, he became a serial killer who preyed on women attending university, whereas Knighty Knight was a former renaissance fair worker who, after being insulted for his attire, impaled a guest with his sword, and became the last to join the "Crazy 8".

Release[edit]

Willy's Wonderland was scheduled for worldwide theatrical release on October 30, 2020, but was removed from the calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing the closure of theaters across the globe. It was announced on January 15, 2021 that it would be available for digital distribution. It was eventually released through video on demand and received a limited theatrical release on February 12, 2021. Due to being delayed by the pandemic, it was released in Saudi Arabia on September 23, 2021.

Box office[edit]

Willy's Wonderland grossed $418,286 in North America and grossed $38,858 in other territories for a worldwide total of $457,144, against a budget of $5 million.

The film grossed around $97,164 in its opening day and made $107,145 over the four-day Presidents' Day weekend. The following day, it grossed $203,886, with Croatia grossing $12,734 and the UAE grossing $14,191.[17][18]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 60% based on 89 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. 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."[19] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 44 out of 100, based on 14 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[20]

Variety's Owen Gleiberman wrote: "Kevin Lewis's giant-furry-funhouse-mascot slasher movie knows how preposterous it is but plays it straight".[21] 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."[22] 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."[23] 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".[24]

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".[25] 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.[26] Charles Barfield of The Playlist gave a similar opinion and rated the film with a "B+".[27] 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."[28]

Possible sequel[edit]

In an interview, G. O. Parsons stated he had an idea for a sequel if the film got enough support.[29] In February 2021, it was announced that a sequel was being actively discussed.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Munro, Shaun (February 12, 2021). "Movie Review – Willy's Wonderland (2021)". Flickering Myth. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  2. ^ "Willy's Wonderland". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  3. ^ "Willy's Wonderland". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  4. ^ "'Willy's Wonderland' Trailer Traps Nicolas Cage in a Nightmare World of Killer Animatronics". MovieWeb. January 15, 2021. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  5. ^ "Watch Nicolas Cage battle giant animatronic animals in 'Willy's Wonderland' teaser". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on January 15, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Wiseman, Andreas (October 29, 2019). "Nicolas Cage To Star In Genre Thriller 'Wally's Wonderland'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on December 29, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  7. ^ C, Mark (February 25, 2021). "WILLY'S WONDERLAND Interview: Director Kevin Lewis On Casting Nicolas Cage, Possible Sequel, & More". ComicBookMovie.com. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  8. ^ Flowers, Maisy (July 3, 2020). "Everything We Know So Far About Willy's Wonderland". Screen Rant. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  9. ^ "Nicolas Cage to Star in Twisted Theme Park Thriller 'Wally's'". The Hollywood Reporter. October 30, 2019. Archived from the original on November 29, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  10. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (February 5, 2020). "'Party Of Five' Star Emily Tosta Joins Nicolas Cage In Genre Thriller 'Wally's Wonderland'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 8, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  11. ^ Murrill, Spencer (February 25, 2021). "The Making of Willy's Wonderland Pinball". This Week in Pinball. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
  12. ^ Miska, Brad (February 22, 2020). "New Shot of Nicolas Cage in 'Wally's Wonderland'". Bloody Disgusting. Archived from the original on April 7, 2020. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Chakrabartty, Nishan (February 11, 2021). "Where Was Willy's Wonderland Filmed? Movie's Real Filming Locations". The Cinemaholic. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  14. ^ "Willy's Wonderland: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". www.amazon.com. Retrieved March 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Squires, John (January 29, 2021). "There's Now an Official 'Willy's Wonderland' T-Shirt Based on the One Nicolas Cage Wears in the Movie". Bloody Disgusting!. Retrieved July 20, 2021.
  16. ^ Squires, John (June 25, 2021). /comics/3671411/willys-wonderland-prequel-comic-releasing-halloween-season/ "'Willy's Wonderland' Prequel Comic Releasing This Halloween Season". Bloody Disgusting!. Retrieved July 20, 2021. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  17. ^ "The film was gross in the Opening Day".
  18. ^ "Willy's Wonderland Trailer: Nicolas Cage Must Slay Animatronics To Survive". Screen Rant. January 15, 2021. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  19. ^ "Willy's Wonderland". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  20. ^ "Willy's Wonderland". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  21. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (February 13, 2021). "'Willy's Wonderland' Review: Nicolas Cage Faces Off Against Animatronic Kiddie Monsters in a Horror Bash That Revels in its Cageness". Variety. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  22. ^ De Semlyn, Nick (February 9, 2021). "Willy's Wonderland Review". Empire. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  23. ^ Fowler, Matt (February 12, 2021). "Willy's Wonderland Review". IGN. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  24. ^ Bitel, Anton. "VOD film review: Willy's Wonderland (2021)". VODzilla.co. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  25. ^ Elizabeth, Kimberly (February 12, 2021). "[Review] Nicolas Cage Battles Evil Animatronics in Willy's Wonderland and We Likey". Nightmare on Film Street. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  26. ^ Turner, Alix (February 12, 2021). "Willy's Wonderland review – punch and pop aplenty from Cage, mighty and moody as ever". Ready Steady Cut. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  27. ^ Barfield, Charles. "'Willy's Wonderland' Is A Bonkers Ode To '80s Horror With A Caffeine-Fueled, Pinball-Obsessed Nicolas Cage [Review]". The Playlist. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  28. ^ Delgadillo, Nicolás (February 13, 2021). "'Willy's Wonderland' Review – Nicolas Cage Kicking Animatronic Ass". DiscussingFilm. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  29. ^ Parker, Cris (Interviewer); Parsons, G. O. (Interviewee) (January 21, 2021). Talking To The Creator of Willys Wonderland About FNAF, Animatronics & MORE!. 3C Films on YouTube. Event occurs at 27 minutes. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  30. ^ Weiss, Josh (February 17, 2021). "'Willy's Wonderland' director sees his Evil Dead send-up as the next great horror entry in the Nic Cage 'genre'". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved March 13, 2021.

External links[edit]