Killer Chuck E. Cheese

Willy’s Wonderland is bad! Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good in the immortal words of poet laureates Run-DMC. Nic Cage stars in what is primarily an unlicensed adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy’s mixed with the tongue-in-cheek zaniness he’s so fond of when tackling b-movie projects. Much love and care has gone into making this wacky thrill ride. While maybe not Cage’s best work, it’s easily one of his most memorable roles this century.

Director Kevin Lewis unashamedly rides the former Hollywood superstar’s penchant for quirky movies starring off-beat personalities, possibly creating a cult classic in the process. As long as you don’t think too hard about its silly, illogical backstory which is often a problem in modern horror, Willy’s Wonderland is a blast of cheesy fun. Come for Nic Cage hamming it up as a silent character who never actually speaks, stay for the killer animatronic restaurant mascots he battles to the death.

Willy’s Wonderland could more correctly be called a stylish parody than a straight horror flick

A hard-driving loner (Nic Cage) is stranded in a remote town when his muscle car breaks down. The rural mechanic only accepts cash for the repairs, making Cage an offer he can’t refuse. In exchange for staying the night at an abandoned fun center named Willy’s Wonderland and cleaning it up as a janitor, the mechanic will repair Cage’s car overnight for free.

Clearly modeled after family party restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese which became popular in the 1980s and 1990s, Willy’s Wonderland has fallen into disrepair. It’s certainly not an inviting place for children anymore, caked in grime and dust. Cage accepts the deal, soon learning creepy animatronic animals like Willy the Weasel aren’t as lifeless as they first seem. A group of well-meaning teenagers bumble their way into the situation, causing more problems for themselves than anyone else.

Cage’s unnamed character is a silent John Wick type with more humor thrown into the action and a few great recurring visual gags. Director Kevin Lewis allows Cage to do whatever he wants and the star takes full advantage, shaping the character in his own unique approach. If there are missteps, they don’t harm the movie. Resulting in a comically violent thriller with a few horror tropes mixed in for good effect.

Willy’s Wonderland could more correctly be called a stylish parody than a straight horror flick. It’s surprisingly violent as a group of annoyingly stupid teenagers serve as victims. The movie’s flimsy premise falls apart with any scrutiny but that’s not really the point.

The creepy, creepy designs for the terrifying animatronic mascots are fantastic. The film wouldn’t work if their menacing stares didn’t add an implicit threat level and suspense into the mix. And the annoying songs Willy the Weasel repeatedly sings will stick in your head for weeks after viewing.

Nicolas Cage looks like he’s having a ton of fun making this movie, serving up a twisted pastiche of b-movie horror and action cliches. Willy’s Wonderland is that rare burst of inspired creativity with the right amount of laughs and satirical edge to overcome its dumb characters and unbelievable premise.

Video

Available information indicates Willy’s Wonderland was filmed using Arri Alexa mini-cameras, captured at 2.8K resolution and then mastered at the digital intermediate stage in 2K resolution. So the actual resolution locked into the source material receives only minor benefits from this 4K UHD, but significant improvements in color rendition and shading are easily apparent over BD. Initially skipped on UHD, Scream Factory has given the movie a new Dolby Vision encode taking full advantage of its wild color palette and intense digital grading for occasionally brilliant HDR.

The main feature runs 88 minutes on a dual-layer UHD. This is one of the few cases in independent films where I’m recommending the more expensive UHD even if you already the film. The razor-sharp 2.39:1 presentation offers an unnatural palette boosted by yellow-hot flesh-tones, strobing sequences, practically glowing animatronic characters, and a stark contrast.

Depth and dimensionality are often outstanding, if a wee bit inconsistent. The animatronics are a mixture of practical effects enhanced with CGI, looking quite good in 2160p resolution for a low-budget b-movie. They definitely aren’t exposed in this higher resolution format with more revealing texture and detail.

Willy’s Wonderland is a movie almost designed to be seen in Dolby Vision and Scream Factory delivers an excellent 4K UHD made for demanding videophiles. This is not a case of a label grabbing any random horror movie they could find for a quick 4K release.

Audio

A 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround mix is packed with nice depth and engaging immersion. It’s a big, bold sound with discrete activity lighting up the soundstage. There’s cleanly intelligible dialogue, nice dynamics, and a perfect musical score highlighted by Freebird playing at a funny time.

The low-budget film may have benefited from a next generation Dolby Atmos mix but this is a quality recording which makes intelligent use of all channels. Bass is okay but there’s less significant subwoofer usage than expected.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font inside the scope presentation. Secondary stereo 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio is available.

Extras

Skipped for UHD by Screen Media Films when they issued Willy’s Wonderland on Blu-ray in 2021, Scream Factory rectifies that mistake by issuing the Nicolas Cage horror movie in a two-disc collector’s edition with both a 4K UHD and BD. A regular slipcover is available and also a limited edition SteelBook edition. The big lure here is seeing the film in 4K with fine Dolby Vision enhancement.

The included Blu-ray is locked to Region A. No special features are found on the UHD, they have all been moved to the Blu-ray.

Given the free spirited nature of Willy’s Wonderland, the bonus features are a little light with nothing in-depth to really sink your teeth into for deeper knowledge. Nicolas Cage does appear in the making-of featurette.

“Inside The Fun” Featurette (07:38 in HD)

Set Tour With Actor Christian Del Grosso (02:33 in HD)

“Fresh Meat” Featurette (01:10 in HD)

“Colorful Demons and the Demon-Atrons” Featurette (01:44 in HD)

Character Teaser Gallery (00:54 in HD)

Character Poster Gallery (00:44 in HD)

Willy’s Wonderland Trailer (01:50 in HD)

Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Willy's Wonderland
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Nicolas Cage slickly battles killer animatronic mascots trapped inside a family fun restaurant, ’nuff said

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 41 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD:


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