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Not much is going right for meek misfit Willard Stiles. He’s constantly screamed at by his overbearing mother, ruthlessly bullied by the boss who stole his father’s business and mercilessly laughed at by his co-workers. Willard eventually turns to a colony of rats for friendship and with training they will soon do anything for their new friend. It’s time for Willard to get even.
- New 4K scan of the original camera negative
- Audio commentary with Actor Bruce Davison
- Interview with Actor Bruce Davison
- Theatrical trailer
- TV spot
- Radio spots
- Stills gallery
As accomplished as it is superfluous, Willard is a stylish horror film with plenty of style but precious little horror. Genre buffs will appreciate it as a visually superior sequel/remake of its popular 1971 predecessor, giving Crispin Glover a title role perfectly suited to his uniquely odd persona, in the same league as Psycho's Norman Bates. This time, Willard's the psychotically lonely son of the original film's now-deceased protagonist: a milquetoast introvert who befriends an army of obedient rats--lethal allies when Willard's pushed to his emotional breaking point by his abusive boss (R. Lee Ermey). In keeping with his memorably macabre episodes of X-Files, writer-director Glen Morgan excels with dreary atmosphere and mischievously morbid humor (including an ill-fated cat named Scully), and Glover gives his best performance since River's Edge. But even the furry villain Ben--an oversized rat with attitude--is more funny than frightful. With some justification, Glover's fans will appreciate the open door to a sequel. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The familiar story for those of us who remember Bruce Davidson in 1971 (his cameo is as photographs of Willard's late father) is that Willard (Crispin Glover) is stuck at a dead end job at the business founded by his father but now run by the cruel taskmaster Frank Martin (R. Lee Ermey), while at home he takes care of his infirmed mother (Jackie Burroughs). Willard does not have a friend in the world before he finds one in Socrates, a white rat. Then he discovers that the other rats in the basement are willing to listen to what he says. Well, except for the largest of the bunch, named Ben, and all of the ingredients are in place for the death and mayhem.
Writer-director Glen Morgan apparently wrote the script for "Willard" with actor Doug Hutchison (Percy Wetmore in "The Green Mile") in mind for the title role. This is rather ironic because the chief attraction of this film is the performance of Crispin Glover. To every one who saw Glover in the first "Charlie's Angels" film, the fact that he would be perfect as Willard Stilles seems fairly obvious. Emery, as the film's villain, is not as scary as he was in the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," but still has its moments and it was certainly a trip to see Burroughs, remembered as Aunt Hetty from "Tales of Avonlea," as Willard's mother, who decides that his problem is his name and re-christens him "Clark." Laura Elena Harring plays Cathryn, the temp worker hired to help Willard at work and who takes a liking to him despite his problems, but she is never more than an observer on the festivities.
The DVD extras are fairly interesting given the problems Morgan had it putting a finished film together. Starting with a R-rated version that gets below average ratings from the first preview audience, he cobbles together a pair of PG-13 versions, with a changed ending, but each version gets even lower scores and the film is sent off into the world to only make $4 million its first week, finish in eighth place, and disappear a fortnight later. The back story on this remake is more interesting than most. There is also a music video of Glover doing "Ben," which he signs over the end credits of the film, as well as the usual deleted scenes and assorted featurettes. Even if you have not seen the original and even though it is not a really horrific horror film despite all those rats, this one is worth a look.
A remake of the 1971 movie, the plot of "Willard" is completely inane but somehow manages to work. Glover brings an unbelievable amount of likeability to his role, which helps build sympathy for his character. R. Lee Ermey is also very good as Willard's exceptionally vile boss who eventually gets his just desserts. Of interest, the pictures of Glover's father that are seen throughout the house are actor Bruce Davison, who played Willard in the original movie.
Debut director Glen Morgan (writer of "Final Destination) employs a rather flashy style that helps "Willard" rise above similar B-movies. The movie also features some much appreciated humor, notably in a scene involving the song "Ben" by Michael Jackson. However, if you watch this movie expecting an explicit horror movie, then you may be a bit disappointed at the relatively gore-free first hour of the movie. Nevertheless, some of the later scenes are more graphic, and "Willard" is ultimately a surprisingly enjoyable movie.
Extras: The DVD is packed with extras. 1) An interesting commentary track featuring the director and Crispin Glover. 2) A 17 minute documentary called "Rat People," which features interviews with people who keep rats for pets. Narrated by Bruce Davison, the documentary features profiles of the rat fans interspersed with hilarious interviews with an exterminator and other rat-haters. 3) A video of Crispin Glover's remake of the song "Ben," which is hilarious. 4) A dozen deleted scenes, some of which show more graphic alternatives.
This review is for the DVD that has been released this week, November 2017.
The film has had a new scan and has a clear picture, it has an audio commentary with Bruce Davison plus an interview with him.
Regarding the film, I find it to be a product of its era and that isn't a complaint. The character development of Willard towards his relationship with his rats is quite wonderful. I was rooting for Willard and his rats throughout. This isn't a horror film but a slowly developed character study of a boy becoming a man through an agentic shift in species. I was rooting for the rats, a classic 70's film.
The thing that upsets me about this film though is that this could have been a great black comedy or at least a good solid horror film, but the director/writer (or both) did not have the conviction to really go for it in either direction and so we're left with a film that feels like an opportunity for a cult classic which has been missed, this is a real shame as everything else was in place for it to be just that.
There is certainly scope for a sequel here, but lets hope that it's directed in the write way if there's to be one, well worth checking out, possibly to rent first and go from there.
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