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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.69%
Worth A Look44.9%
Average: 10.2%
Pretty Bad: 2.04%
Total Crap: 8.16%

3 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Willard (2003)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Crispin Glover. I'm sorry, do you NEED anything else?"
5 stars

I didn't think much of the original "Willard" (1971) when I finally caught up with it recently. Impersonally directed, and cartoonishly acted by everyone except Bruce Davison in his classic cringing-hysterical turn as rat lover Willard Stiles, it looks these days like nothing so much as a shrewd generation-gap revenge thriller: Willard was kept down by his elders, and, much like others his age in 1971, he gathered his forces and rebelled. 2003's "Willard" remake, ingeniously casting Crispin Glover as Willard, is more timeless and far, far superior.

What was once clunky is now stylish; what was once dull and predictable is now a sick-funny ritual of vengeance. This Willard remix is a gothic, creaking, brilliantly macabre and unexpectedly intimate movie.

Director Glen Morgan (a veteran of The X-Files) and his co-writer James Wong stick close to the original story. Willard lives in an ornate old house with his sickly, domineering mother (that experienced wacko Jackie Burroughs, whose scenes with Glover are like a duet of freaks). He clerks at his late father's company, now owned by bulldozing bully Frank Martin (R. Lee Ermey, attempting to beat us to death with his economy-size eyebrows). The only one Willard can turn to for solace is Socrates, an intelligent white rat he encounters in his cellar. Socrates is the brains; Ben, a grotesquely large rat we first see eating a tire, is the brawn. Willard befriends them (and scores of other rats), training them with such simple phrases as "In," "Out," and "Tear it up."

Crispin Glover certainly tears it up. He belongs in, I don't know, maybe black-and-white underwater unsubtitled German films. Lacking that, he's brought his sui generis Crispin-tude to one movie after another; this may be his only lead in a film that opens nationwide in 1,800 theaters, and he gives it his blend of sensitivity and whirligig madness. He's a Tim Burton movie all by himself. As Willard, he has a way of shivering out his joy or rage, as if his repressed passions were devils physically leaving his body. When he loses his cool, he screeches much like his rat companions. In the original film, the rats came to trust Bruce Davison because he was kind to them; here, it's as if they took one look at Crispin Glover and recognized one of their own.

Anyone who fetishizes Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, and dusty old expressionist horror films will want this Willard in his or her collection. A yapping little dog and, later, a cat find themselves hilariously outnumbered and outclawed by Willard's legion of rodents. There's a remarkable shot of Willard covered in rapidly dispersing rats that scamper off to do his bidding; he's like a god of the lower orders, or an unholy cross between Nosferatu and Renfield. Glen Morgan and cinematographer Robert McLachlan achieve a sort of cobwebbed beauty, a world the color of old blood stains. Crispin Glover slinks in and out of the shadows as if they'd birthed him.

Willard is an elegant visual essay on the bizarre. Willard's scenes with his beloved Socrates play like the weirdest unrequited romance moments of all time; he tenderly shares a bed with the rat, while the neglected Ben skulks in corners, somehow managing to look hurt and resentful. This conflict between rat leaders -- Willard, Socrates, Ben -- is much more fleshed out here than in the original, and is just eccentric enough to work.

Much of the credit for that goes to Crispin Glover, who has the genuine cracked inspiration to persuade you that weird things matter. This dark valentine to misfits, and the love between misfits, was released a month late.

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originally posted: 12/28/06 14:14:15
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Horror Remakes: For more in the Horror Remakes series, click here.

User Comments

5/11/09 art i say"NUT"S" to this film about"RAT"S"! 1 stars
5/16/07 Stanley Thai This fell below my expectations. I really doesn't deliver but it's decent. 3 stars
3/30/07 fools♫gold The only problems it had were in the dialogue, and the superb DVD got rid of that! 5 stars
2/11/07 action movie fan bad remake-looses all the power of the first 1 stars
11/28/06 Charles Tatum Dark and lovely, an improvement on the original 5 stars
8/16/05 ES R. Lee Ermey is the hard ass of hard-asses and I refuse to believe he can make a bad movie 3 stars
3/03/05 Laurie Le Blanc I thought Crispin Glover was excellent! 4 stars
8/27/04 American Slasher Goddess Besides Glover's performance, it just doesn't do enough to improve upon the original. 3 stars
6/09/04 The More You Know Crispin's cuckoo, rats do voodoo. Worth it if you can stand these varmints! 4 stars
4/04/04 Emily Fantastic! A wonderfully dark film with excellent acting. 5 stars
2/15/04 homer creepy, but lots of tantalizing fun, crispin glover is one hell of a frerak 4 stars
1/03/04 A F mmmkay 3 stars
10/21/03 Curious George bah not my kind of movie 2 stars
10/18/03 Samuel Justus A great movie... but also sad in parts! Crispin Glover portrays a great 'Willard' 5 stars
10/08/03 Erik Van Sant Crispin Glover was born to play this character. A great mixture of horror and comedy. 4 stars
8/07/03 Joe great 5 stars
7/24/03 Maggie It sucked i was getting ready to leave tahts how bad it sucked 5 stars
6/03/03 Hugo A terrific movie with a terrific cast 5 stars
4/16/03 The Velcro Warlock WHAT were they thinking?? Is boss from hell the hero? Or is it mommie dearest? 1 stars
3/28/03 Uncle Salty Two words: Super-Rad. (Maybe technically that's one) 5 stars
3/27/03 elizaveta pretty fun, kinda creepy - glover sure knows how to tremble 4 stars
3/27/03 Duh Jon. Already is a remake of the 1971 cult classic 4 stars
3/26/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik A damn good future cult classic. 4 stars
3/20/03 bob leather jacket It creeped me out...I kinda liked it 4 stars
3/17/03 Andrew Carden Good Special Effects, and Performances; Otherwise Contrived and Stupid. 3 stars
3/15/03 Vicious Not just a horror film but a perfectly played tragedy. 5 stars
3/15/03 syrius great if you understand what it symbolizes 4 stars
3/15/03 Film Dude Crispin Glover ownz j00. 4 stars
3/13/03 Chad Smith I frickin' LOVED it. If you consider yourself a Crispin Glover fan, DON'T MISS IT! 5 stars
3/12/03 bob mckenzie creepy goodness! 5 stars
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  14-Mar-2003 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Glen Morgan

Written by
  Glen Morgan

  Crispin Glover
  Laura Harring
  Jackie Burroughs
  R. Lee Ermey
  Kim McKamy
  David Parker

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