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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Willard

Starring: Crispin Glover, Jackie Burroughs
Director: Glen Morgan
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: March 2003
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Kim McKamy, R. Lee Ermey, David Parker

Review by Susan Granger
1½ stars out of 4

Rats! They've done it again. Writer/director Glen Morgan has made a remake of Daniel Mann's Gothic horror flick. Back in 1971, this perverse, low-budget, rodents-on-the-rampage story was a hit, particularly at drive-in movies. (As an homage here, the portrait in the parlor of Willard's father is actually of Bruce Davidson, the actor who played Willard in the original.)

So now Crispin Glover is 30 year-old Willard Stiles, a shy office clerk who lives in a decaying turn-of-the-century mansion with his ailing mother (Jackie Burroughs). They have a bizarre psychological relationship that evokes memories of Norman Bates and his demanding mother in "Psycho." "There are rats in the basement," she complains. So Willard obediently descends to the furnace room and gently vanquishes the vermin - except for one smart white rat whom he dubs Socrates and befriends. Soon Willard commands legions of rats - led by the aggressive alpha-male Ben - who will wreak bloody vengeance on his cruel, villainous former boss (R. Lee Ermey) who stole the family business from Willard's father. Obviously, the rats are a physical manifestation of Willard's repressed rage, so the real stars of this scare story are the live and animatronic rat-wranglers, including animal stunt coordinator Boone Narr, who coax human-like responses from the seemingly ravenous critters. Socrates is an Albino Norwegian rat, while Ben is an immense African Gambian Pouch rat, the largest of the species in the world. Actor Crispin Glover ("Charlie's Angels") caricatures the infantalized Willard's silent suffering with Laura Elena Harring ("Mulholland Drive") as his sympathetic co-worker. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Willard" is a creepy, cheesy 4. I recommend renting the original.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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