Willard

"Good"

Willard Review


Could there be any dobut that a horror movie starring kooky, uncanny string-bean Crispin Glover would be a weird B-movie bonanza of creepy-crawly macabre?

A proudly kitschy remake of a 1971 cult horror flick, "Willard" uses its idiosyncratic star to maximum effect as a milquetoast misfit whose only friends are the scores of rats rapidly overtaking the cavernous, ominous, creaky old house he shares with a grotesquely old invalid mother (Jackie Burroughs) who could drive a guy to go Norman Bates. Constantly humiliated by a cruel boss (R. Lee Ermey) trying to run him out of the family business after his father's death, Willard trains his rodent army to do his vengeful bidding, and soon all hell breaks loose.

Glover -- best known as George McFly in "Back To the Future" and The Thin Man in "Charlie's Angels" -- is so perfectly peculiar in this flick that I imagine it wouldn't have gotten made without him in the title role. Shaking with sublimated resentment and quaking with psychological dysfunction (accentuated by the frequent use of fish-eye lenses), yet eerily calm and contented with rats crawling all over his body, his performance is funny, sad, sympathetic and menacing -- often all at the same time.

Writer-director Glen Morgan (co-writer of Jet Li's "The One" and "Final Destination") takes full advantage of his star's bizarre talents and trademark uber-angular features. He delights in creating cheaply stylish midnight movie atmospherics and paying homage to the story's earlier incarnation (Bruce Davison, the original Willard appears in photos as Glover's dead dad).

But unlike the low-standards/high-gloss horror remakes being cranked out every Halloween these days ("Thir13en Ghosts," "The House On Haunted Hill," "The Haunting"), "Willard" achieves its extremely creative creepiness by letting your imagination do most of the work. Morgan shows us the rats gnawing away at the tires on Emery's new Mercedes in an early test of Willard's power over them. But when it inevitably comes time to gnaw on the boss himself, we only see him submerged in a wave of nasty rodents, giving the mind plenty to, er, chew on without the usual gore.

Trading on goosepimples not popcorn-spilling frights, Morgan and Glover know full well how to be scary. But at the same time, they're always ready with an odd, obscure and/or amusingly morbid joke. (Example: a dynamite-like rat poison used in the film is called Tora Bora -- as in the bombed-out al Qaeda caves in Afghanistan.)

"Willard" never takes itself too seriously. Not even when the rats become a bigger problem than Willard could have imagined -- turning on him under the leadership of a big, nasty brown furball our anti-hero nicknamed Ben (who had his own sequel back in the '70s).

If more horror directors embraced their inner B-movie schlockmeister the way Morgan does here, fright flicks as freakish and as much fun as "Willard" might be the high-aspirations (but still low-brow) yardstick by which other genre junkers would be judged. Then perhaps we'd see far fewer assembly-line slasher pictures that resemble only a very small part of this movie -- the rat droppings.



Willard

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Friday 14th March 2003

Box Office USA: $6.8M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 81 Rotten: 46

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Willard Stiles, as Frank Martin, as Cathryn, as Henrietta Stiles, Ashlyn Gere as Ms. Leach, William S. Taylor as Mr. Garter

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