Horror 365, Movie 142: Willy’s Wonderland

As I’ve mentioned on any number of occasions, I generally try to eschew (no dad jokes about sneezes or nuts please and thank you) reviewing current features, but now and then something comes along that I’m just dyin’ to write about. It happened with Ratched and I Care A Lot for instance. And now, I just gotta deal with Willy’s Wonderland.

I originally started a review of it not too long ago, but it morphed into 5 Games That Should Be Horror Movies. But it was still Willy’s Wonderland that got the ball rolling, or if y’all will allow me a wee callback, started up the ol’ pinball machine. Plus I will always slap down some green to watch Nicholas Cage be unhinged. Plus plus Willy’s Wonderland was Just. So. Damn. Fun.

Premise is simple. A character referred to only as The Janitor (Cage) is hired for a one-time gig to clean up an old family pizza place that the owner intends to restore to its original glory and reopen. The place is complete with a stage full of animatronics. If you can hearken back to the pre-Chuck E. Cheese days of ShowBiz Pizza, you’re gettin’ the right vibe. Oh, and this is a swell time to mention a 2018 short called The Hug. Some brat named Aden at a third-rate pizza joint starts up the animatronic show with dire consequences.

So perhaps think of Willy’s Wonderland as kinda like Five Nights At Freddy’s which I’ve mentioned should already be a movie anyway, mixed with The Banana Splits Movie, and directed by, I dunno, Rob Zombie or Eli Roth. It’s worth pointing out that, like Bingo’s Jungle and Fleegle’s Magic Shop in The Banana Splits Movie, Willy’s Wonderland has some special features as well. There’s Siren Sara’s fairy-themed area and The Super Happy Fun Room which already sounds like a circle of hell or a kinky torture chamber from Rob Zombie’s 31.

There is, of course, a catch, and it’s not much of a spoiler to just come right out and say that the animatronics are homicidal. You can pick that up from the trailers and, come on, as a writer or director what the hell else would you do? Why that is I’ll let you discover for yourself, but it’s handled if not elegantly, at least sufficiently. However, it does suggest to me that there should be a hybrid/corollary to the Rules Of Horror #5 Dolls Are Evil. Always. and #11 Technology Is Not Your Friend. That rule should be The Robots Will Rise Up, and it includes animatronics.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, Willy’s Wonderland. It’s just such an over the top self-aware riot, and Cage seems like he’s havin’ a blast. The Janitor also has a singularly weird little quirk: every time his watch alarm goes off, he literally stops whatever he’s doing and drinks a can of Punch–some kind of apparently super-caffeinated soda. The reason for this is never made clear. Naturally I have a theory which we’ll get to soon enough. Incidentally, whilst looking for an image of the Punch can, I came across a Reddit post from Njjeppson:

“Punch” seems to be a reference to “Bang” which, wouldn’t you know, is one of the most powerful energy drinks on the market, so it looks like we have our real-life counterpart. This means that each Punch can contains 300 milligrams of caffeine which, even on its own, is a pretty excessive amount. However, The Janitor seems to drink an entire can every hour…If you factor in the three empty cans shown at the beginning, that’s 10 downed cans of Punch in total. How much caffiene [sic] does he have flowing through his veins by the time he fights Willy, then? 3. Milligrams? No. GRAMS. 3 GRAMS. 3000 MILLIGRAMS.

Da-aaaannng. According to an NIH article I read, 3 grams could in fact kill you (5-10 being more likely but still). Yes, I read an NIH article in support of writing this. That’s my level of nerdliness dedication. We are, after all, total geeks professionals.

And now, my spoiler-laden theory. Whatever Punch is, it somehow serves as The Janitor’s fuel. Fuel for what? My theory is that The Janitor is himself animatronic. Note the cut on his cheek at the end. It’s black. Watch how he turns to the girl in the car to hand her a Punch. But hey why stop there? Let’s take this jolly little conspiracy completely off the deep end.

Maybe The Janitor drives from place to place clearing out possessed animatronics–a kind of mechanized Sam and Dean Winchester. And maybe Warren Mears created more than one Buffybot or went through some prototypes. And maybe they got disposed of but picked up by someone else. And maybe they got possessed by being near hellmouths. Which means that maybe, just maybe, Willy’s Wonderland and Supernatural are part of the–wait for it–Buffyverse! Whew. I’m exhausted.

So, here’s my suggestion. Make an afternoon and evening of it. Start with The Hug, move on to The Banana Splits Movie, and finish up with Willy’s Wonderland. Then grab a mask and an energy drink or two and head your nearest “barcade” and play some pinball. Come to think of it, I’m all up to date on shots for The Covids and don’t think I have much goin’ on next week…

BODIES- A whoppin’ 41, only 7 of which are animatronics
For rent on  Apple TV, Google Play, Prime, Vudu, YouTube

Gonna need one o’these

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