Willy's Wonderland - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Willy's Wonderland


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Movie: :4stars:
4K Video: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :4stars:




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Movie

"He's not trapped in here with them, they're trapped in her with him! They're "Caged" in!"

Nicolas Cage is one of the weirdest and most oddball Actors in all of Hollywood. He’s the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, is known for his over acting style, became a living god in the late 80s and 90s, and was one of THE highest paid actors known to man. However, he lived a lavish life style, basically spent himself broke, started taking bigger and bigger flops (we ALLLLLL remember that was the horror of the Wicker Man remake) and in the early to mid 2000s started to fade out of the lime light after the National Treasure sequel. Then he lived a life of taking every single low budget movie he could make in order to get himself out of the insane amount of debt he had put himself in (although, according to internet rumors and interviews he’s given, some of it was due to having to take care of his mother who suffered from a debilitating mental disorder) and became basically another Stephen Seagal. 10 DTV movies a year for a quick paycheck, and no one has taken him seriously for the last 10 years. HOWEVER, the man has magically pulled a resurgence in his career, but it is not the resurgence that you would have though. After over acting his way to the nth degree for the last 10 years Nic has garnered the knack to actually choosing good projects. But instead of A-list projects like Keanu Reeves did in his resurgence post John Wick, Nic Cage has mostly chosen to pull odd-ball auteur projects along with some A-list voice acting gigs that have earned him some new fans, AND the ability for me to say that Nic Cage is actually making fun movies again. Films like PIG, Sympathy for the Devil, Renfield and Butcher’s Crossing are not going to make $200 million dollars at the box office, but they’re each privy to him pulling off some very well done performances and elevating them over the typical DTV fare that is expected of him. Sadly I didn’t have a chance to watch Willy’ Wonderland back in 2021 when it came out, but I hard heard that along with Mandy it was one of his best roles since the early 2000s.

While release back IN 2021 via Screen Media, Scream Factory has broken it’s tradition of getting another studio’s film, releasing the Blu-ray, and then years later releasing the 4K UHD disc. This time they skipped the middle step and simply got the rights from Screen Media and went straight for the jugular with the 4K release. Easily one of my most anticipated films to review in the last few months, I dove straight into the story without even watching the trailer (on purpose) and was NOT disappointed. Willy’s Wonderland is an absolutely bonkers gonzo horror film, filled with winks and nods to flicks like Sergio Leone’s The Man with No Name trilogy, 1980s slashers, and old Noir style thrillers with some of the camera angles and such.

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The film opens up with Nic Cage playing a nameless stranger who wanders into a small town and pops a tire. Turns out the town is REALLY small and is devoid of internet or the like, so he’s forced to work off the repair bill on his Camaro by cleaning up a derelict “Chuck-E-Cheese” type place called Willy’s Wonderland for the owner who wants to re-open. Little does he know that inside the derelict building is more than just a bunch of dirt and grime, but also demonically possessed animatronic creatures who have used the building as a feeding ground for the last 20 years. But here’s the thing. The nameless man is more than just another victim for the evil beings. He’s a bonafide killer himself who doesn’t bat an eye at kicking, punching, stabbing, and eliminating every single one of the killers animatronic monsters so that he can get out of there by morning light and get his car back on the road.

On paper Willy’s Wonderland is an absolute dumpster fire. You’d think that this something akin to Puppet Killer or Happytime Murders, but it ends up being HILARIOUSLY fun. For one, the movie doesn’t really take itself too seriously, but doesn’t devolve into slapstick humor either. The makers know full well that this is a ridiculous premise, but still go ahead with the gore, slashing, killing, and such with just a wink to the audience. Secondly Nic Cage knocks it out of the park as the silent man with no name. He literally doesn’t say a single word the entire movie, instead acting solely with body language and a sense of ferocious mystery that makes you root for him to kill them all. Plus Willy’s Wonderland relies heavily on classic slasher tropes, ranging from the teens who get killed mid coitus, to the tough female “lead” who helps Nic Cage’s silent tough guy as much as she can . Honestly, the movie is just plain dumb fun, but cage’s weird ability to both under act and over act in the same roll is just plain gold. I’ve liked a lot of Cage films from the last 3-5 years, but Willy’s Wonderland is up there at the top if you’re a horror fan.




Rating:

Not Rated by the MPAA




4K Video: :4stars: Video: :4stars:
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Willy’s Wonderland is given a strong 4K remaster for this encode, but it also has some source limitations due to the very unique filming aesthetic employed here. The flick is distinctly desaturated, with a blend of light purple and sepia for the color grading. Fine details are good, but this is given a very grindhouse esque aesthetic that doesn’t exactly lean towards razor sharp clarity. There’s some crush in the dark derelict building, but outdoor shots have a bit more pizazz to them (such as Nic Cage’s camaro coloring). The nuances on the animatronic puppets looks great, and I really appreciated that 99% of the effects were all practical (though there were glimpses of what looked like CGI in some of the more chaotic sequences). HDR/DV application is good, thought I noticed it tended to more accentuate the black levels over making the primary colors really “pop” thanks to the aesthetic. All in all it’s a nice 4K and a solid upgrade over the decent Blu-ray included in the set as well.








Audio: :4stars:
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I don’t have the Screen Media disc to compare against, but knowing Shout!/Scream’s history I highly doubt it is anything other than a direct port, or simply a re-encode from the same audio master. Either way, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is very solid, with a strong low end presence throughout the entire flick and some great use of the surrounds within Willy’s Wonderland itself. The creepy score and “party” music isn’t wildly dynamic and aggressive, but it still fills out the track quite a bit, and dialog is spot on. Basically, this is a film that carries some great LFE and strong channel presence, but isn’t going to be one that pushes the limits of the format, nor is it going to push the dynamic range anywhere while. Vocals are clean, and surrounds are well engaged with some good bass. Rinse and repeat for 89 minutes.













Extras: :3stars:
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• "Inside Fun" Featurette
• Set Tour with Actor Christian Del Grosso
• "Fresh Meat" Featurette
• "Colorful Darkness And The Demon-Atrons" Featurette
• Trailer
• Image Galleries













Final Score: :4stars:


If you’re a slasher horror fan (or just a Nic Cage fan) then you owe it to yourself to watch Willy’s Wonderland. It’s more than the sum of it’s part, with a “killer” performance by Cage, a deliciously over the top plot line, and it homages some great horror/slasher tropes that have been missing from horror movies for quite some time. I haven’t seen the Screen Media Blu-ray from 3 years ago, but the 4K disc (and subsequent Blu-ray in the combo pack) looks really good for the drained aesthetic chosen, and it’s got some nice extras. Check it out if you can.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant
Directed by: Kevin Lewis
Written by: G.O. Parsons
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Sugtitles: English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: NR
Runtime: 89 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 13th, 2024
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Recommendation: Hilariously Fun Watch

 
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Todd Anderson

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What is going on with this Cage rebirth???

I just watched Renfroe... mehhhhhhh... didn't love it. It was ok. But I do like the Cage persona being on the screen!
 

Michael Scott

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What is going on with this Cage rebirth???

I just watched Renfroe... mehhhhhhh... didn't love it. It was ok. But I do like the Cage persona being on the screen!

Renfield was the weakest but mildly fun. the others are very much art house or stylistic productions he's doing. Honestly I'm loving it. He may not be doing Face/Off or The Rock level stuff, but he's putting out some fun stuff. PIG and Butcher's Crossing were way better than expected, and this was a blast for slasher fans.
 

Todd Anderson

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LOL... yes, Renfield.

You can see it had a huge impact on me! I have Butcher's Crossing here. Need to give that a spin!
 

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I watched when it originally came out and I LOVE this movie. I recall it dropping around the same time as the Banana Splits Movie, which was also fun, but nowhere near as interesting and bizarre as this one. Loved it, highly recommended.

I've been a Nic Cage fan since first seeing Valley Girl, and then discovering that he was in Fast Times at Ridgemont High....he's had some great stuff, but these last several years have been really fun. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was one of my favorites of the year when it released. PIG is another incredible film, really not what I was expecting from the trailer and poster. I consider PIG to be every bit as good as Leaving Las Vegas.
 

Mike Schramm

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Great review Michael. I'm not sure I have heard of this until now, but now I can't wait to see it!
 
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