Willard


Directed by: Glen Morgan
Written by:Glen Morgan
Starring: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Harring, Jackie Burroughs
Released: August 21, 2003
Grade: A-

Willard Stiles lives alone with his ageing mother.  He’s never had any friends, let alone a girlfriend.  He is a creepy, social outcast.  His father ran a manufacturing company but died several years ago and friend of the family, Mr. Martin (Ermey), then took over the business.  He let Willard keep his job but Martin sees him as an incompetent fool and he has no qualms about telling him to his face.

In the basement of his large house, he finds a small rat which he names Socrates and it becomes his new best friend.  There are other rats in basement and when Willard starts feeding them, more arrive and soon there’s an army of hundreds living downstairs.  One of these rats (which Willard names Ben) is extremely large and is a leader amongst them.  Willard understands this and sees Ben becoming jealous of the attention he gives Socrates.  He needs to be careful.

Willard is one of the strangest yet creative thrillers released this year.  I deliberate haven’t gone into much plot detail because there are some very bizarre developments which shouldn’t be spoilt.  If you have an aversion towards rats, you’ll need to be fully prepared before entering the cinema.  This isn’t some funny, quirky comedy.  There are graphic scenes of the rats eating living things which could leave some audience members rather sick.

The leading actor is Crispin Glover.  It’s a surprisingly emotional performance and delivers it with amazing intensity.  We last saw Glover in a tiny role in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle but this more fitting of his talent.  If you’re wondering where you’ve seen him before, Glover has had small parts in Nurse Betty, The People Vs. Larry Flynt and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.  He must be one of the few actors in Hollywood who would allow himself to be constantly surrounded by filthy rats.

There are some strong special effects and the direction from Glen Morgan befits the subject material.  It his directorial debut but he has a long background in producing and writing movies and television shows.  What a disturbing way to begin a full feature career.

This low-budget film will leave you constantly on your toes.  It’s impossible to pre-empt what will happen next and this is how a good thriller should operate.  Willard will find a cult following and despite my high recommendation, only see it if you’re prepared for it.