Movies

How Scary Is Willy’s Wonderland, Nicolas Cage’s New Movie?

The horror film pits the movie star against murderous animatronic mascots.

Nicolas Cage lowers his sunglasses and looks at the camera. In front of him, a meter twitches. It's labeled "The Scaredy Scale."
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Screen Media Films and Getty Images Plus. 

For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.

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This time: Willy’s Wonderland, essentially a riff on the cult video game Five Nights at Freddy’s that stars Nicolas Cage as a man who faces off against a crew of sentient animatronic characters in a shut-down family entertainment center.

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A chart titled “Suspense: How much will you dread the next kill or jump scare?” shows that Willy’s Wonderland ranks a 3 in suspense, roughly the same as Gremlins. The scale ranges from The Joy of Painting (0) to Alien (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Screen Media Films and Getty Images Plus. 
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Willy’s Wonderland telegraphs almost all of its scares pretty far in advance, so the jump scares are few and far between. Cage is eventually joined by a group of teens, and almost all of their deaths will provoke a “Yep, saw that coming” reaction. The one exception to the generally low suspense threshold is a scene involving strobe lights that makes the animatronic monsters’ movements unpredictable, but the scene is over quickly enough.

A chart titled “Gore: the Ick Factor” shows that Willy’s Wonderland ranks a 6 in goriness, roughly the same as Jurassic Park. The scale ranges from Singin’ in the Rain (0) to the Saw franchise (10)
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Screen Media Films and Getty Images Plus. 
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There’s a good deal of blood, but that level of gore is offset by the fact that most of it looks like ketchup. Meanwhile, a black, motor oil-like substance stands in for blood when Cage goes to town on the animatronics, so the violence feels a little less “real.” Still, there’s one body sliced in half, a few limbs chewed off, and some disquieting munching sound effects as the animatronics try to sate their desire for human flesh. TL;DR: The gore level is high, but brought down a level or two by how fake it all looks.

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A chart titled “Spookiness: How much will it haunt you after the movie is over?” shows that Willy’s Wonderland ranks a 5 in spookiness, roughly the same as Alien. The scale ranges from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (0) to The Exorcist (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Screen Media Films and Getty Images Plus. 
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I’ve put Willy’s Wonderland squarely in the middle of the Spookiness scale because how frightening you find it will depend solely on how frightening you find animatronic characters. Their faces are all kind of creepy, but you can also pretty clearly tell that they’re just people in mascot costumes getting beat on by Nic Cage. There’s even one character who is literally just a woman wearing a mask—but in fairness, that mask has a lot of teeth in it. As someone who is fairly ambivalent about animatronics, I didn’t find this movie that scary, but in case animatronics are the stuff of your nightmares, I’ve cranked the Spookiness rating up accordingly.

A chart titled “Overall: This is even more subjective, depending on what kinds of scares get you the most” shows that Saint Maud ranks as a 5, roughly the same as The Sixth Sense. The scale ranges from Paddington (0) to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (10)
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Screen Media Films and Getty Images Plus.
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All in all, if you’ve got the Cage rage but don’t want to be plagued by nightmares of animatronics, you’ll probably still be safe watching Willy’s Wonderland. It’s not as scary as Five Nights at Freddy’s, and the amount of silliness that abounds (Cage’s character is religious about taking breaks, and each time his watch alarm goes off, he goes straight to the break room—even leaving a fight, at one point—to crush an energy drink and go a few rounds on a pinball machine) helps make the whole movie feel a little tamer. More likely than not, the only thing that will linger in your mind after the movie ends is the song that the animatronic characters sing.

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