Do you know what masklophobia is? At one time in your life there is a good chance that you had this phobia. Masklophobia is the fear of masked figures or people dressed in full costume. Particularly large entertainment figures that you find in amusement parks, birthday parties, comic book conventions and sporting events. This fear is closely related to other phobias such as clausophobia which is the fear of Santa Claus and even coulrophobia, which is the fear of clowns.
Some Of Us Don’t Move On
For the most part we all overcome these fears as we grow and our understanding of reality tend to become more of a clear picture. But some of us don’t truly move on from those fears. We may still cringe at clowns or think about plowing our vehicles into a group of furries. For some of us we evolve that fear into deep seeded hatred and paranoia. I for one would never turn my back on that fuck face rat named Chucky from Chuck e Cheese. I know that bastard is planning some major bloody homicide. With those big nasty ears and buck teeth! The place is a festering slop house and ground zero for some sadistic butchery in the making. That large animatronic thing comes out and sings songs and all the kids and fat moms wearing sweat pants just cheer it on. But I see what’s going on. He’s terrifying and you can see it in his big soulless eyes. Shit eating Chucky wont get away with this. Thinking he can pull off what his sick pedophile cousin Mickey does down in Orlando! I don’t trust either of those two. How can a giant bubonic ridden rodent be a mascot for any corporation anyways? I’m telling you people, they’re butchering us right under our noses and stupid parents keep throwing their Friday welfare checks to them! They must be stopped! So it’s safe to say that I myself may have a glimmer of this phobia.
Good Idea. No Really.
With all this said, the idea of killer giant mascot entertainers is a pretty awesome idea. It’s an idea that seems to have a great deal of potential and in many ways has been touched upon in films. Many people remember the penguin mascot named Iceburgh in 1995’s Sudden Death starring Jaun Claud Van Damme. That movie is kick ass and the fight scene with Iceburg vs Van Damme is completely epic and fresh. It’s out of the norm for most action films and for most people is something we remember with a nice shit eating grin on our faces.
Tommy Lee Chicken
One of my favorite movies growing up with was 1998’s U.S. Marshals starring Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes. The movie was technically a sequel to 1993’s The Fugitive which was a massive success. Although U.S. Marshals wasn’t as good, I absolutely laugh my ass off at the first scene in the entire movie where Tommy Lee Jones character Samuel Gerard is on a stakeout for some drug dealers. The dude is in a fried chicken mascot outfit during the entire scene. Seeing a giant sized chicken whipping a gun out and going in to kick some ass is so awesome!
In 2014 an indie video game called Five Nights at Freddy’s would make its debut. A game where you play as a night security guard at a family restaurant much like the very popular Chuck E’ Cheese. Your job is to watch monitors that display particular parts of the building. While doing this, the animatronic mascots come alive and are on the prowl to kill you. The game was an instant success for its jump scares and eerie atmosphere. It would also spawn countless sequels that continue to terrify gamers to this day. A movie for Five Nights at Freddy’s was in the works and fans were excited but from what I can tell, it’s a little late to the party.
Simpsons Did It!
Even The Simpsons has done something similar in season six where the entire family goes to Itchy & Scratchy Land. The parks mascots all go “Westworld” and start killing the guests and eventually the Simpsons are the only ones left and must fight off the killer robots.
It Makes Sense
These examples are outstanding because they take what should be cute, cuddly and innocent topics and turn them into the exact opposite. We all want to hug the mascots at an amusement park and we cheer for the home teams mascot that violates people in the crowds. They’re warm, inviting and to have anything be the opposite causes a conflict with our emotions. I’ve been to a Pittsburgh Penguins game and have given a high five to Iceburgh. It tears my heart out to see him shooting someone in the head in a movie. But I love it! Horror is a perfect genre at taking our comfort levels and tossing them in a meat grinder. Oh, you like going to the beach? How about a killer great white shark. You love clowns? How about a killer entity that appears as a clown to lure children into its deadly grasp! You think mysterious little cute creatures are cool? How about one that multiplies and creates viscous monsters that want to kill you? You want to go to space and meet aliens? How about one that lays eggs in your chest so its young can grow and burst through your ribcage! By doing this, it makes us feel less safe and secure. It plays on our inner fears that we as adults claim to set aside.
So it makes perfect sense that a horror movie about killer mascots would be attempted. In fact there are two movies that have recently been available that are both very similar. I’m talking about 2019’s The Banana Splits Movie and 2021’s Willy’s Wonderland.
The Banana Splits Movie
As a young boy and his family go to a filming of his favorite show called The Banana Splits. All seems perfect and ideal until the robotic mascots soon malfunction and go from loving entertainers to murdering technology! Will this family make it out alive or will they become victims of furries gone bad?
This film follows a free roaming guy played by Nicholas Cage. He’s driving down a dusty road and pops a tire. In order to pay for his repairs, this man (that is later only known as “The Janitor”) must work his debt off by cleaning a family restaurant known as Willy’s Wonderland. As the janitor is fulfilling his duties for the night, strange and unusual things begin to take place and our protagonist soon learns he is part of a sinister town tradition.
After watching both movies I felt it would be best to write a review about the two because in my opinion they both have the same exact stories (with minor variations). Unfortunately they both share the same problems and reason why they fall flat in being awesome horror films. I don’t want to give too many spoilers so this is in general my main attack on the two films and I think it’s enough to claim a perfectly clear verdict.
Off the back, the movies are kind of boring which is odd because the idea of killer mascots has so much potential. But “potential” is the word and both The Banana Splits Movie and Willy’s Wonderland fail to live up to their potential. I suppose this is the main problem with any horror film that fails. When you think about it, most movies have the potential to be great but lack that certain something. They’re like a meal that lacks a particular oomph to the taste. You want to enjoy it. You’re begging for it to be great! But if there is something missing then it ruins it. Makes it nothing to remember and both of these movies are missing something.
Not Absurd Enough
For me, it would be the films lack severe absurdity. Which is odd because a killer animal mascot is without a doubt absurd. But I have a rule with absurd horror movie topics and I believe it makes perfect sense. When you create something that is intended to be absurd, it should be accompanied by a slew of insanity. If you’re going to make something about cute and cuddly mascots, then the violence and gore must be out of this world to contrast their overall expectation. Between the two, The Banana Splits Movie is the worst offender… but that isn’t saying much for Willy’s Wonderland. I want to see severe brutality! The cuter the characters, the more extreme the gore should be. Every death is just simple and dull. They don’t leave an impression. Even when one of the mascots die, it is boring and kind of deflating. There is no reward in seeing something creative or flat out hysterically exaggerated.
Perfect Example of What To Do
Think about 1988’s Killer Klowns From Outer Space. It’s fucking alien clowns! But you go with it cause the thought of it makes you chuckle inside. But the wonder and richness of the movie is that it takes this stupid topic and completely runs with it to the end. The aliens aren’t just clowns, they actually present and act like them in all that they do. Their weapons are bulgy and cartoonish. Their props for murder are clown gimmicks and things we’ve witnessed when seeing actual clowns. Shadow puppets, puppet shows, cream pies, popcorn, cotton candy, a big top space ship and a mega clownzilla! It all flows and it is completely moronic. But it’s in the absurdity that it prevails and remains a cult classic.
Where Is The Gore?
Willy’s Wonderland killed me because they build up Nicholas Cages character in this Mad Max kind of manner. Literally the guy is on a journey and ends up stuck in a particular environment surrounded by pathetic people that he doesn’t really care about. You’re waiting for him to unleash hell like his character in Mandy does, but it never really gets there. His most prominent feature is his watch alarm goes off every hour so he goes and drinks a soda and plays a pinball machine. It’s quarky but thats simply all there is to this guy. There is no counter action to the character. Most of the violence he does is just beating the mascots into greasy robotic pulp. One hit and the mascots are down for the count. At one point he’s running down a hallway with two mascots in his way and instead of doing something awesome… he just punches them in the face! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!? That would be like Leatherface running after someone with a chainsaw and he simply pushes the pussy over instead of gutting them with the blade! Grab your balls and butcher someone! This is why we’re here. These aren’t even humans so you have all the right to be as free with the depictions. But no, everything is boring. Which is sad because the horror elements of the films kind of get lost so there isn’t much to run on. Something has to keep you going and in this regard they failed.
I just wanted The Banana Splits Movie and Willy’s Wonderland to end. I didn’t even care who was dying or why because none of the characters meant anything to me. Everyone is fodder but the most mind numbing boring fodder in horror. What made me most upset is that Willy’s Wonderland uses Nicholas Cage as the grab. Knowing he’s in this movie and his recent projects for movies like Mandy caught my attention. I hate the teens in this movie and their deaths didn’t feel like a reward. They added nothing as plot devices or personality. Just annoying teenagers that for some reason are stuck in the building with the janitor. The Banana Splits Movie didn’t have anyone I recognized but even then I didn’t care about the characters. They had a good opportunity to make a movie where people are stuck in this studio and the Banana Splits are going absolutely crazy… just pandemonium and terror all over.
It’s just a shame. These two films could have been so much fun but epically failed. I don’t get how you can mess this up. I would think a director that had the balls to make a horror movie about killer mascots would have the testicular fortitude to make something good. They’re both films where they could be re-made if only the director promises to deliver to tasty brutality and gore. I wanna see mascots ripping out guts and bowling human brains. How about a moment when the Banana Splits characters rig some body parts up as instruments like the vampires in 1996’s From Dusk till Dawn.
I for one am disappointed in these two films and believe any bad thing you can say about one refers to the other. But if I was to declare one better than the other then it would be Willy’s Wonderland. There is one moment where Nicholas Cage does his “Cageness” and aesthetically the movie is shot well. But that isn’t enough to make it a good film that belongs in the ranks of Evil Dead or Dead Alive. Just two missed opportunities with great potential. My advice is to skip them both and hope a Five Night’s At Freddie’s movie can accomplish where these to films failed. Thanks for reading.