Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas Cage’

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

October 1, 2022

Clearly, somebody in pop culture finally got the message that animatronics are creepy. I think my first real experience with animatronics was the famed Munch’s Make Believe Band at the famous pizza establishment run by Charles Entertainment Cheese. I was also familiar with the less famous Rock-afire Explosion of Showbiz Pizza. The limited motion and mouth flaps of the animatronics were at once creepy and exciting for me. Here were things that were both alive and yet not alive. Of course, I had been to Disney before that but it was not until my second visit that the memory really stuck with me. Of course, I have talked about one of my life’s defining points, Snow White’s Adventures, and how it influenced my affinity for horror. So, Five Nights at Freddy’s helped bring animatronics back to the horror world, but they have always been there. In fact, I wrote about a similar movie over two years ago.

What makes animatronics creepy? I have spoken before about why I think clowns and mascots are creepy and part of that is true for animatronics. Even if they are fashioned as humans, they wear inhuman faces. You hear them talk and you see them move and you expect to see a human face but it just isn’t there. With animatronics, there is an additional layer. They are not really there. One of the things that can be creepy is that they are not delivering their voice lines or their songs to you. They do not notice you. They can’t notice you. They do their schpiel whether you are there or not. Of course, that is what makes animatronics so effective in horror. What would happen if they do notice you? What would happen if they really do see you?

The first thing I noticed was how much you can tell that they focused on getting the nostalgia feeling correct. It is strange to have nostalgia for something that did not happen but this definitely captures the feeling of all of those animatronic birthday pizza party locations. The color palette of the movie feels otherworldly at times. The camera work is often beautiful and the shots are carefully arranged for maximum effect. One thing the movie does is a lot of quick cuts in a row that never failed to make me laugh but also felt a little unnerving. The animatronics are so goofy which also makes them more terrifying when, well, you know. Their movement was done very well to the point where I could not tell what was CGI and what was practical. The kills are absolutely brutal and definitely exciting.

I really love the acting in this one. Nobody in this movie acts like a normal human being. Every single person is strange and it often feels like their part of different conversations. While this would usually be a sign of a bad movie, it was obviously intentionally weird for comedic effect and to keep the viewer off their guard. Also, the movie has a simple premise so they do not waste time getting to the fun stuff. Nicholas Cage is always on point, of course, and he is great at acting alternatively pissed off and crazy all without uttering a single word. Emily Tosta is great as possibly the only sane character in the movie, a small-town girl with ambition. The rest of the cast is made up of goofy character actors who add to the strange ambiance. The voice acting from the animatronics is spot on for a cartoon and exactly what you would get at Chuck E. Cheese. Their music is really well done as well.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was a great movie to pick to start the month off as it has a mix of horror and humor. This is not just a cheap, quickly made horror movie to cash in on the resurgence of animatronic horror. This had some thought behind it and it showed. Now it is not a complex movie but the worldbuilding is on point. Apparently, Nic Cage produced the film as he was very protective of the script. It shows. There are a lot of things they could have done to cop out on and make it more ordinary but they stuck to their guns and made something that felt strange and new. I recommend this movie.

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