Review – Not Worth Watching Nick At Night (“Willy’s Wonderland”)

It seems that Nick Cage will take just about any role that’s given to him these days. His IMDB page reads like a list of bizarre ‘B’ exploitation films (Primal, Kill Chain, Grand Isle, A Score To Settle, Jiu-Jitsu), and not the A-list movies he used to make. Hey, work’s work, right?

When I saw the trailer for this, it seemed too irresistible to pass up. Oh sure, Cage has put out other equally strange-looking films, but this one caught my eye. Seriously, how often do you see a movie trailer where a guy beats the crap out of a bunch of evil animatronic animals? If you’re a fan of video gaming, it’s clearly a rip-off of Five Nights At Freddy’s. (Google it!) This Covid-19 delayed film is certainly unusual as it has Cage never uttering a single word during the entire 88 minutes! Apparently, he was wanting to do a movie like this!

Lost in Anywhere, USA, a man-with-no-name (Cage) gets four flat tires (thanks to some handy spike-strips) and is towed into Hayesville, a trailer-trash town that has a dark, horrible secret. Since this guy has no money for his repairs, he’s offered a deal by loathsome Tex Macadoo (Ric Reitz). Y’see, Tex owns a derelict and defunct children’s eatery called Willy’s Wonderland (a Chuck E. Cheese rip-off) that needs cleaning up and repair, and if the drifter can spend the night there, his car will be returned in the morning, free of charge. Sounds pretty good, huh?

But what this ‘janitor’ doesn’t know is that Willy’s Wonderland is filled with eight possessed animatronic fuzzy creatures that want to feast on your blood, thanks to a sinister deal struck long ago (what Chucky did from Child’s Play). But as the janitor goes about his cleaning (which he takes VERY seriously), a group of teenagers show up to burn the building down, lead by the exposition-giving Liv (Emily Tosta). She’s worried that this janitor might be in danger, but she shouldn’t, ’cause this guy is a one-man wrecking machine, thanks to his never-ending supply of Punch energy drink!

As the body count goes up (both human and furry), the sheriff (Beth Grant) attempts to save Liv and her friends, while giving more exposition in the process. Well, that’s convenient! One thing is for sure, this is one silly slasher movie that is a wonder how and why it ever got made in the first place. But hey, Cage liked the script, approved it, helped produce this film, and agreed to star in it. Go figure. This is writer G. O. Parsons very first screenplay and it shows, as he’s never written a movie, TV series, or video short before. That means the plot holes run rampant, the dialogue is trite and dull, scenes don’t make any sense, and the story is about as dumb as a bag of rocks.

Then you have the direction by Kevin Lewis. Known for his forgettable, unknown movies like The Third Nail, The Drop, and Malibu Spring Break, I’m guessing he used a friend’s Sony camcorder to shoot this low-budget movie because it looks awful. The color saturation is all over the map, the lighting is terrible, and I swear he used some of the rehearsal takes as the finished product! Yes, there were a few nice touches here and there, but geez, Louise! I’ve seen YouTube movies that looked better! I really hope they paid Cage a lot for this.

And speaking of Nick Cage, he practically sleepwalks through this movie, knowing that he’s getting a nice little paycheck for speaking NO lines and ripping apart some furries. Hell, I’d do that! The rest of the cast are your basic stock, cardboard day players that answered an ad in Backstage.com. The only one that gave it that extra oompf was Beth Grant as the concerned sheriff. Really, you can cross this movie off your to-see list of Nick Cage films and save yourself the current VOD $$$. You’re welcome.

** Currently streaming on Amazon and VUDU       

Metalhead (2017)
(Black Mirror TV series, Season 4, ep. 5)

The British version of our Twilight Zone, Black Mirror has a reputation of delivering episode after thought-provoking episode with twists and turns that don’t always have a happy ending. In this black & white mini-movie, a woman is pitted against a killer robotic dog. Yikes!

It’s the dismal future (as most Black Mirror episodes usual are, BTW), where something bad has happened, you just don’t know what. Driving through a dying landscape, Bella (Maxine Peake), Anthony (Clint Dyer), and Clarke (Jake Davies) are looking for an important item for Bella’s son, Jack, who is dying. Finding a deserted warehouse, they strike pay-dirt and find a box full of… wait! What was that? What appears but a  nasty security feature: a four-legged electronic guard “dog” (well, it looks like a cockroach). The ‘dog’ sprays Bella with shrapnel-trackers, then shoots Anthony dead. Bella flees in her car with Clarke following in another hot-wired van, but the dog jumps into the van and blows his head off!

On the run, Bella is now at the mercy of this relentless, killing machine that is doggedly pursuing her through the forest and, after a car crash, up a tree, where the machine finally runs out of battery life. Thinking she’s okay, Bella runs away, but the dogs solar-powered! Nuts!! Bella comes across a house/fortress and gets in, but her happiness is short-lived as that dang dog gets in too, wielding a huge kitchen knife! Bella manages to ‘blind’ it with some paint and finally kill it but, in true Black Mirror form, the ending is heart-wrenching, combined with a gut-punching closing shot (OMG!) on just what Bella was searching for back at the warehouse.

Written by series creator Charlie Brooker (who writes most of the series episodes), this one is short, sweet, and devastating. Director David Slade (Hard Candy, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) really delivers a one-two punch for only a 41-minute episode. It never lets up with Bella (Maxine Peake giving a bravura performance) being savagely hounded by a killer mini-robot and making you squirm all the way through it. THAT’S great directing! Peake is exceptional, trying to maintain her sanity as she’s running from this canine killer. All episodes are available on Netflix.

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