WILLARD - 2003
Rating: USA: R
People dont kill people. Rats kill people.
WILLARD was written and directed by Glen Morgan (first
time directing; writing credits include FINAL
DESTINATION, MILLENIUM [TV], X-FILES [TV]), based of course
on the novel RATMAN'S NOTEBOOKS by Gilbert Ralston (writing
as Stephen Gilbert). This is a remake of 1971s WILLARD.
(Crispin Glover: FRIDAY THE 13th: Part IV, AT CLOSE
RANGE, THE RIVER'S EDGE) is in his basement, where his sickly mother
(Jackie Burroughs: BLEEDERS) has told him she heard rats. Sure enough there are rats a plenty but Willard assures
his mother there are none, trying to shield her from the unpleasant news.
He goes to the local hardware store and buys a variety of rat killing
supplies but the rats seem
unnaturally intelligent and avoid the
obvious traps. Eventually a rat is caught in a sticky trap but at the
moment of truth the basically kind hearted and desperately lonely Willard
cant bring himself to kill the little white rodent. Instead, he
rescues Socrates and the two become disturbingly close.
Willard quickly discovers that he has a Dr. Doolittle-like ability when it comes
to rats, and they obey his every command. He feeds them and teaches them
tricks, but Socrates remains his favorite. The only other rat Willard
bothers to name is Ben, who stands out because hes huge.
Willards relationship with Ben is well choreographed. The huge black rat is clearly
jealous of Socrates special relationship with their master. And
yes, in case youre wondering, the song Ben (by
Michael Jackson) is in the mix.
Fun games with smart rats is the only source of joy in Willards life. The
rest of his time is spent taking care of his ungrateful mother and working
a job he hates for a boss who hates him more. Willard works at a company
that bears his fathers name - shown in pictures and a portrait as
actor Bruce Davison (X-MEN, APT PUPIL), but he never actually
appears in the film. We find out that Willard's father died 8 years ago
and the company is now owned by the very unpleasant Frank Martin (R.
Lee Ermey: SE7EN, THE FRIGHTENERS, MEGIDDO: The Omega Code 2). Martin apparently promised to always have a job for Willard and he keeps his promise. But he makes it very clear
he despises Willard and never misses a chance to humiliate him in front of his co-workers.
In response, the spineless Willard takes it and takes it and takes it some more. How
much can he take before he calls on his four legged friends to balance
the scales with a little payback?
Thats all Ive got to say about that. But I will tell you that Crispin
Glover does a wonderful job as the steadily crazier Willard. His angular
face adds to the classic horror movie look of the film and the moments
where Willard can take no more and explodes with repressed emotion are
fun to watch. The movie includes several great lines, but my favorite
comes when a lawyer tells Willard he may have to sell his house to pay
off some of his fathers old debts. But not to worry, because he
can use the money to start over. Start over?! screams Willard.
Im almost done!
I also must give kudos to the director for excellent use of the movie medium. The
carefully crafted shots and odd angles in many scenes add to the creepy
atmosphere. When Willard helps his hideously ugly mother sit up in bed
and her face comes right at the camera, filling the screen, people in
the theater cringed. In other scenes his mothers eyes look deliberately
The story gets a little slow in the second half but even so I give WILLARD a four on the Shriek Girl scale.
copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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