Wednesday, January 31, 2024

WILLY’S WONDERLAND (2021) (Scream Factory Collector’s Edition 4K Ultra HD Review)

Collector’s Edition 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: Region-Free (UHD), A (Blu-ray)
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 88 Minutes 35 Seconds 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, 5.1 Surround with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Dolby Vision HDR 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (2.35:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Kevin Lewis 
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner

In the Kevin Lewis (Malibu Spring Break) directed low-budget horror comedy Willy's Wonderland (2021) a quiet drifter named Jed (Nicolas Cage, Wild At Heart) finds himself stranded in a small town with four flats on his car. With no money to pay for repairs he is offered a late-night janitorial job by businessman Tex Macadoo (
Ric Reitz, The Loft), the owner of the now-condemned Willy's Wonderland, a family entertainment restaurant very much like Chuck E. Cheese's.  Tex says he plans on re-opening it and need someone to clean it up, and it seems like easy way to earn some cash to get back on the road. Jed sets in for the night cleaning the place like a pro, regularly swilling Punch Soda and playing pinball, seemingly hourly, but before too long he finds himself fighting for his survival against dilapidated, demonic, murderous animatronics.

If this sort of sounds familiar it's pretty much a riff on the Five Nights at Freddy's video game concept, which also received it's semi-lacklustre official adaptation last year. It turns out that the now-withered animatronic mascots —Willy Weasel, Arty Alligator, Cammy Chameleon, Ozzie Ostrich, Tito Turtle, Knighty Knight, Gus Gorilla, and Siren Sara are inhabited by the murderous spirits of Willy Wonderland's original proprietor, Jerry Robert Willis (Grant Cramer, New Year's Evil), who was discovered to be a notorious serial killer who employed seven like-minded killers who regularly slaughtered whole families who came to celebrate Willy's to celebrate. Eventually the cops caught onto to the murderous shenanigans and when they started closing in the eight killers opted to perform a Child's Play-esque Satanic suicide ritual to transfer their souls into the bodies of the animatronic mascots. In the aftermath the town was terrorized by the mechanized killers until the town's leaders, Tex and and Sheriff Eloise Lundeth (Beth Grant, Donnie Darko), made a plea with the mascots, offering that if they stayed inside Willy's Wonderland and stopped terrorizing the town that they would supply them with human sacrifices from time to time to sate their blood-lust. Also entering into the fray is rebellious teenager Liv Hawthorne (Emily Tosta, Party of Five) as the sheriff's adopted daughter who has a tragic past connected to the evil play 'n eat pizza place, who finds her way to Willy's looking to burn it to the ground with her delinquent friends, and ends trying to save Jed from suffering the same fate as her parents. 

This low-budget feature is a terrifically entertaining slice of carnage, Cage doesn't say a damn word the entire flick, just going about his business scrubbing down stained urinals and encrusted sinks until the animatronics start trying to kill him. It's rather funny that he is undeterred by the murderous machinations, each time he faces one he kicks it's ass and just goes back to cleaning the place nonchalantly, totally geared towards getting his car back on the road. The look of the animatronic monsters is wonderful, and Cage gets to go full-on Mandy mayhem-mode at times here, whipping up some proper whoop-ass, with plenty of blood, guts and animatronic hydraulic fluid flying all over the place.  Also, I love the soundtrack music from Émoi, demented kiddie and Willy's Wonderland theme songs, some of it effectively slowed down and creepily warbled to ominous effect. 

Audio/Video: Willy's Wonderland (2021) arrives on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Scream Factory in 2160p UHD framed in 2.39:1 with Dolby Vision. The digitally shot low-budget endeavor has an intentionally desaturated look about it, the inside of Willy's Wonderland is quite colorful but the visuals have been dialed down for a washed-out looked that to be honest I found quite unappealing as a viewer. This UHD with Dolby Vision color-grading stays true to that intention, primary colors are muted, blacks tend to look milky, but there is appreciable detail and textures in the close-ups of facial features of characters and the animatronic demon  killers. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2,0 or 5.1 with optional English subtitles. It's solid enough but not bombastic or overly aggressive, the opening scenes of Cage's character driving fast, the sound of squealing tires and acceleration are sharp and piercing, and the later scenes of carnage and the soundtrack from Émoi fair well enough. 

Looking at the extras we get the same set of bonus material that accompanied the previous Screen Media Blu-ray from 2021 and nothing new, which makes the Collector's Edition designation a bit dubious in my opinion. The 2-disc 4K UHD/Blu-ray arrives in a dual-hubbed black keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original movie poster artwork. It also comes with a slipcover featuring same key artwork. 

Special Features: 
Disc One (4K UHD):
- Feature Film in Dolby Vision
Disc Two (Blu-ray):
- “Inside Fun” Featurette (7:39) 
- Set Tour with Actor Christian Del Grosso (2:12) 
- “Fresh Meat” Featurette (1:12) 
- “Colorful Darkness And The Demon-Atrons” Featurette (1:44) 
- Trailer (1:51) 
- Image Galleries

Willy's Wonderland (2021) rocks pretty dang hard, a carnage filled low-budget horror-comedy with Cage as a silent, soda pop-swilling bad-ass tearing up demonic animatronic killers is wildly entertaining stuff. It not only riffs on the Five Nights at Freddy's concept but in my opinion is actually quite a bit more fun and carnage filled than the actual Five Nights At Freddy's flick. That said if you own the previous Blu-ray of this I do not think this is enough of an upgrade to merritt a double-dip, the limited visual aesthetic doesn't necessarily translate that much better in 4K, and lack of new extras, especially as it's advertised as a Collector's Edition, is a disappointment. 

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Screenshots from the Scream Factory Blu-ray: