‘Willy’s Wonderland’ 4K Review: A Chaotic Night In Hell

Did you somewhat enjoy last year’s long-in-the-making Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023) feature film but found the gore lacking due to the teen-friendly PG-13 rating? Then maybe this definitely-not-an-adaptation that beat Blumhouse to the punch a couple of years earlier is the experience you’re looking for. Willy’s Wonderland (2021) delivers on the promise of animatronic animals assisting in activating arterial geysers though the film does stumble in storytelling.

In fact, were it not for the presence of Nic Cage there’s a good chance the final product would look like something produced by The Asylum. Cage is the sole anchor, delivering an expected but different performance that outshines everyone else by a country mile. The only thing is he doesn’t speak. Ever. Instead, all of the talking is done by a gaggle of god-awful “teens” (all of these people are close to or over 30) and their concurrent storyline nearly sinks what is otherwise a halfway decent picture.

Cage stars as a nameless man, credited as “The Janitor”, with a fast car, traveling down a country road when suddenly his tire explodes. A local mechanic, Jed (Chris Warner), picks him up and offers to repair the damage but it’s gonna cost $1000—and this town doesn’t have internet so The Janitor can’t use an ATM. There is another way to work off the money, though: spend the night cleaning up the interior of Willy’s Wonderland, a defunct children’s restaurant. The Janitor agrees and is soon locked up inside the decrepit facility, along with several of the former attraction’s animatronic anthropomorphized animals.

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While The Janitor diligently performs his duties, a group of “kids”, led by Liv (Emily Tosta), are trying to break into the building so they can torch the place. You see, Willy’s Wonderland has a history of violence and it’s the kind of legend everyone in this town knows. The citizens are aware the animatronics come to life and murder people—we learn all of this via two eye-rolling exposition dumps—and Liv has a very personal connection to the location. But the funny thing is absolutely nothing is going to stop The Janitor from doing his job. Not the bloodthirsty animatronics, not the kids trying to raze the place, and not the twisted locals who assume this new custodian is just one more in a line of hapless victims.

Let’s all be thankful Nic Cage doesn’t even need to speak to deliver the goods because other than a few yells he never utters a word. Early on you can kinda buy this thin trick but later, when he’s surrounded by characters with whom any person would naturally communicate, he remains silent as a statue. It’s the same problem I had with last year’s No One Will Save You (2023). Writing your lead to be mute yet placing them in situations where a conversation would occur ruins the ploy. Cage brings his usual intensity, sparring with these hulking robots and smashing them to pulp… so long as he’s taken a regimented break for an energy drink and a game of pinball. He literally sets his watch to them.

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Emily Tosta is a good actress and the best of the clearly-not-teenage bunch. The rest of the kids are fodder and fully forgettable. Caylee Cowan, who is mostly famous for being the arm candy of Casey Affleck, is the worst of ‘em and she has a sex scene that is so poorly staged and awkward it never should have made it into the edit. But this is a horror film and we need to see people die. It’s clear Cage won’t be one of them, so here’s some fresh meat for the beasts.

Major kudos to the design team for the animatronics because not only are these designs completely in line with what you’d have seen at a Chuck E. Cheese or Bullwinkle’s (my personal favorite establishment as a child) but the animals they’ve chosen to represent are unique. Willy is a weasel. There’s also Gus Gorilla, Tito Turtle, Arty Alligator, Knighty Knight, Siren Sara (think violent pixie), and (my favorite) the bug-eyed Cammy Chameleon. All of this work was done on a fraction of the budget Five Nights at Freddy’s had, yet the suits and movements of the characters nearly match that production. Other than Cage they are the main draw.

Willy’s Wonderland makes its 4K Ultra HD debut from Scream Factory, featuring an upscaled 2.35:1 2160p image. Although the digital intermediate was finished at 2K I have to imagine the application of Dolby Vision and the HDR color grading have improved the look of the film’s color space and density. Whether or not this is a leap over the previous Blu-ray I can’t say, but it is a handsome, clean digital picture with no grain and a fulsome appearance. Even when the action moves to shadows and darkness, a frequent occurrence, the integrity of the picture remains solid.

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Not much to crow about for the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 (or 2.0 stereo) track. I really love Émoi’s score because it sounds like demented arcade music, tonally in line with the kind of cookie-cutter kiddie fare they’d play in a place like Willy’s Wonderland. That birthday song will get stuck in your head. The sounds of the play place are nicely reproduced, from the incessant pinging of a pinball machine to the soft hum of fluorescent lighting. There isn’t a ton of dialogue so the sound effects do much of the heavy lifting. Subtitles are available in English.

There are no bonus features on the 4K disc.

The Blu-ray has a handful of short, shallow bonus features. “Inside the Fun” (HD, 7:38) is a typical EPK, with the cast and crew discussing how the project came together and Cage talking about what drew him to the character. “Set Tour with Christian del Grosso” (HD, 2:33) gives a quick rundown of the primary location. “Fresh Meat” (HD, 1:10) is a blink-and-miss-it piece with the actors who play the teens. “Colorful Darkness and the Demon-Atrons” (HD, 1:44) is a way too brief look at the various animal suits. “Character Teaser Gallery (HD, 0:54) and “Character Poster Gallery (HD, 0:44) show off animated looks at the animals. A trailer (HD, 1:50) is also included.

Special Features:


  • Optional English subtitles


  • “Inside Fun” Featurette
  • Set Tour with Actor Christian Del Grosso
  • “Fresh Meat” Featurette
  • “Colorful Darkness And The Demon-Atrons” Featurette
  • Trailer
  • Image Galleries
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Willy's Wonderland
  • Special Features


This satisfied my craving for a literal horror show, with child-friendly animatronics brought to deadly life – and seeing them smashed to pieces by Nic Cage made it that much sweeter. The story sags in every other area but if you’re in it just to see Cage cave in some plastic craniums expect to be entertained. Scream Factory strangely doesn’t offer any new bonus material, and the 4K image is an upscale, so current owners of the film on Blu-ray may not find the value new buyers might.



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