Released: January 29 2004
Cast: Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, Josh Lucas, Tim Blake Nelson, Eric Bogosian, Ted Levine, Christina Applegate, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Janeeane Garofalo, Faizon Love
Director: James Cox
Writer: John Brownlow
Running Time: 109 Minutes
The 80's Unplugged
The Murders Unveiled
The Legend Unzipped
Wonderland explores, in Rashomon-like fashion, the brutal multiple murders that took place high atop Wonderland Avenue in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon during the Summer of 1981. At first the case seemed to involve only the usual strung-out drug dealers and party hounds, but it quickly became elevated to a classic L.A. noir when it was discovered to be connected to the infamous porn king John C. "Johnny Wadd" Holmes.
Wonderland is not a pretty movie. It is gritty and brutal and constantly showing the seedier side to life, a la Los Angeles style in the 80's. Val Kilmer plays John Holmes who was a porn star with a reputation of being extremely well endowed and of having slept with 000's of women. This movie is not about his life as a porn star, but about his involvement in the murder of four people on Wonderland Drive, Los Angeles in 1981. The movie is told from the perspective of some of the people involved and their versions of the events. Most versions of these events are not the same, and as it turns out, no-one has ever really found the truth - just different versions of the truth.
At the time of the murders, John Holmes had hit rock bottom. Val Kilmer does a sterling job as Holmes, and really portrays a man at his lowest nadir. His porn star career was over and he was beyond caring, his only concern was his next hit of cocaine. He did have a girlfriend along for the ride and for company, played by Kate Bosworth and he tries hard to get straight with her help but can never make it. His involvement in the murders isn't clear except that he was somehow implicated but this may not have been by choice. The murder scenes are very brutal and harsh which is in accordance to the state of the victims when they were found.
The rest of the cast are adequate, including Lisa Kudrow as Holmes' wife - why she felt obligated to him is never made clear - as well as Dylan McDermott and Josh Lucas as two of Holmes' so-called friends.
Wonderland will never be a great movie for it tends to wander and it certainly isn't afraid of showing a seedy side of Los Angeles, which may or may not appeal to some, but it does show the decline of a superstar once the gloss has been washed off. It is revealed at the conclusion of the movie that John Holmes died in 1988 of an AIDS related illness, and that he was acquitted of the murders.
- Christina Bruce