"Willard" is a remake of Gilbert Ralston's movie based on his own novel "The Ratman's Notebooks" from the seventies, about a loner who gets pushed to the edge and seeks revenge with a horde of Rats who follow his command. The film plays out like an extended episode of "Tales From the Crypt" or "The Twilight Zone", which is familiar territory for the current creative team of Writer Director Glen Morgan and Producer James Wong. The duo has a long history of collaborating on creepy capers like the "X-Files", and "Final Destination".
The draw for this update is its star, and "Willard" is a slice of pie for anyone who eats up the weirdness that Crispin Glover oozes. The deviant savant that Glover is makes him born to play a character like "Willard" and its fun to see him in a role that encourages his naturally skewed view. While he and the rodents get most of the screen time, the other humans that appear in Willard pull this rat tale together.
Cementing her position as a modern cult cinema queen, Laura Elena Harring shows up as Cathyrn, the sweet girl from the office that offers sympathy to Willard. And taking Ernest Borgnine's old role, R. Lee Ermey turns in his Sergeant stripes for Executive Brass playing Mr. Martin, the head honcho of the company "Willard" works for. Ermey's suit and tie doesn't get in the way of him dishing out his signature style of verbal abuse as he constantly humiliates and pushes "Willard" down.
This mental grinding makes Willard's first round of rat revenge sickly satisfying, as we eagerly watch Crispin Glover gleefully enact his plan. We share Willard's smirk when he unleashes swarms of Rats into his boss's garage, and they shred the tires of his new swanky car. Tear it up! Tear it up! Say it with me now!
As a Pest fan myself, anything that involves swarms of rodents exacting revenge upon the Man is okay in my book. However there are scenes in Willard that had me squirming in my seat. After one horrific segment involving a cat chased down by rats, several audience members decided they had enough and walked out of the theatre. Not because it was bloody, but because Willard is disturbing in the old-fashioned way, the twisted scenes imply most of the gory details off camera, making the imagined horror all the more terrifying.
"Willard" is the kind of movie that brings lonely misanthropes out in public so they can sit in the dark and enjoy this twisted fare on the big screen. It is not for the timid or the squeamish or for the nice people who left half way through. "Willard" is prime and polished weirdness that if you're a fan of Crispin Glover you will devour like some sort of creepy cinematic crème brulee. Pass the rat poison please...
For movie magazine, this is Purple.
© 2003 - Purple - Air Date: 3/12/03
USA - 2003