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Willard – Review

17 May

Back in 2003, when Willard came out, I was so set on seeing it. I just thought it looked like on of the coolest movies, but I guess it was never meant to be. Now in 2014, eleven years after the movie first came out, I have finally gotten a chance to see it. That could put a lot of pressure on me enjoying the movie. After waiting over a decade to see it and then finding out it was complete garbage would really bum me out. So, did Willard bum me out? Absolutely not. Willard is a special kind of blend of horror and dark comedy that works so well, it’s amazing this movie doesn’t get more recognition. willard-poster1

Willard Stiles (Crispin Glover) is an anti-social office worker for his dead father’s company now run by the sadistic and equally loud manager, Frank Martin (R. Lee Ermey). Home for Willard also offers no real escape with his elderly and decrepit mother (Jackie Burroughs) harassing him at all times of night. This changes when she complains about rats in the basement and demands Willard investigate. While Willard is in the basement, he finds a particularly smart rat that he names Socrates. As time goes on, Willard realizes he has a special connection with all of the rats in his basement, and soon the rats grow in number and Willard decides to use them to get revenge on anyone and everyone who has ever stepped all over him. While Willard’s plan seems perfect, he never bet on the capabilities of a large rat named Ben who grows to hate Willard and everything he plans over time.

Think of Willard sort of as a Tim Burton movie. I’m talking about before Burton got lost in his own stylistic excess. Everything down to the soundtrack of this movie felt like it could have been a movie that Tim Burton made, but it wasn’t. Glen Morgan, the actual director, isn’t that well known in the film world. His previous works have been on the show The X-Files and acted as one of the producers on some of the Final Destination movies. After reading up on him, I was surprised that Morgan was able to craft something like this. That isn’t a statement on his talent, but Willard really is a fantastic looking movie with a mood that is created in the beginning and held perfectly throughout the entirety of the movie.


Usually at this point I talk about if the actors did a good job or not. Most of the times I refer to a couple of them. This time, I only need to mention one: Crispin Glover, one of the most underrated actors I have ever seen. There really is only one person that could have played the part of Willard, and Glover does it to so perfect a degree that it just makes the movie more unsettling than it could have been if another actor was playing the role. He even looks like a rat in a way, although some of that can be credited to the make up department. Still, everything from the way his voice cracks to his slight facial ticks to his posture makes this a deep and understandable character. It’s odd watching this movie almost rooting for Willard to succeed, but that’s just the power of Crispin Glover’s acting.

Of course the writing and the style of the movie helps a lot. There’s moments of Victorian Gothic type of stuff, but then there are times where the style is much more realistic, like when Willard is in a store filled with typical fluorescent lighting and a putrid green tiled floor. There’s something cool to look at in every scene, wether it’s just how the camera is set up or there’s some weird clash of time periods that give Willard a very unique, unsettling, and funny look.

And that’s just what Willard is: unique, unsettling, and funny. It’s an excellent combination of an enormously talented actor combined with excellent set designs, cinematography, and direction. This isn’t really a horror movie as some people tend to think it is. It’s more of a creepy dark comedy that made me laugh and squirm with discomfort throughout the entire movie. I wish I saw it when it first came out, but better late than never. This isn’t a movie to miss, especially if you feel some sort of connection to rodents.