Willy's Wonderland cements for me why I'm pretty much done with movies that feed on '80s nostalgia. The '80s was an interesting time in horror because there was a glut of cheap media which exploited the erosion of censorship, and was often so low-rent that it developed an afterlife on the cult movie circuit. Compared to what movies can show now (which is essentially anything), those of the era are tame. Willy's Wonderland doesn't even have the base titillation of its predecessors.
There are two gimmicks to the film, one mildly promising and the other stupid. The former is the premise of the film, which is that animatronics at an abandoned children's pizza restaurant come to life and kill people, a la the Five Nights at Freddy's video game (the popularity of which is the reason for Willy's Wonderland's existence). The "story" is underwritten to a point where it barely makes sense at times, and is really just a string of basic tropes established in those '80s movies, with no style or thought applied to them. The heroine is a girl once rescued from the restaurant who's now trying to burn it down with her friends, each of whom represents a teen stereotype (the slut, the jerk, the token black male). Nicolas Cage is the true protagonist, however.
Well, the movie tells us that he's the protagonist. That brings us to the second gimmick, which is that Cage doesn't speak a word of dialogue throughout the whole movie. Why this is being treated like a legitimate stylistic choice by some, I don't know. It's so painfully clear that it's just an excuse for Cage to put in as little effort as possible while still collecting a paycheck. The filmmakers would probably describe his "character" as a man-with-no-name type, but the thing about strong and silent protagonists is that they do still need to give you a hint of an inner life, or thought process. Tom Hardy's Mad Max from 2015's Fury Road didn't say much, but you knew that he had a backstory and motivation. Cage has neither. He just comes across as dull-witted, like he doesn't fully understand where he is or what's going on around him.
The "plot" is that he's a drifter whose car breaks down outside a small town. He's picked up and taken to an abandoned pizza restaurant, where he's offered a deal. If he spends the night cleaning the restaurant, his car will be repaired and returned to him in the morning. As the night unfolds, the animatronic animals that once entertained the guests come to life and attack.
The restaurant, Willy's Wonderland, is modelled on places that were popular in America in the '80s and '90s, before arcades went out of vogue and every kid had better entertainment options on their smartphone. On Wikipedia the film's budget is listed as $5 million, yet based on the restaurant set (and everything else in the film) it looks like it was made for a fifth of that.
There's no sense of scale or depth to the restaurant, it's just one main room, another room, a kitchen, and a dank strip-lighted hallway which looks like it belongs in a strip club rather than somewhere you'd take your kids. The rooms don't connect with each other in a way which conveys the sense that the characters are occupying a real place. You could call it minimalist, but it's really just cheap, hence why the only other sets are a grotty old trailer and a "police station". The latter of which is used briefly and never shown from the outside, and looks like what it is: a spare room someone had.
The only thing I liked about Willy's Wonderland was Beth Grant as the town sheriff. Grant is a character actress who's always good value, known among cult movie fans for her role as the pinch-faced, censorious dance coach in 2001's Donnie Darko. She's the only person on camera who can act, besides a couple of bit players who do a passable job as the townspeople who make Cage the deal. I don't count Cage because, although he can act, he doesn't in this film.
There's no reason to watch Willy's Wonderland, especially when 2019's The Banana Splits Movie tells the exact same story with ten times more effort, and a YouTube playthrough of Five Night's at Freddy's gives you more atmosphere. As for this, there's one or two kitsch-y songs on the soundtrack, Beth Grant's in it, and I guess if you're a Nic Cage fanatic you'll get something from it, but otherwise it's just nothing. 1.5/4