Horror review: Willard

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 13, 2003

Why would anyone bother to remake a 32-year-old rampaging-rats flick that was never much good in the first place? Sure, the original Willard did boffo box office in ’71—enough to spawn an awful sequel (Ben) that also made money—but its story of a mother-dominated, boss-abused office clerk who trains hordes of rats to do his bloody bidding was corny and unbelievable.

Evidently, the directing-producing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong (TV’s The X-Files and Millennium, and the first Final Destination body-count film) felt it could cash in on Willard’s cult status, especially with a titular role by perennial screen weirdo Crispin Glover. But the vengeance-driven plot creeps along at a snail’s pace, and all the teeth-gnashing and cheek-quivering in the world—courtesy of Glover’s demented Willard Stiles—cannot save the day.

The thing that anyone who’s seen the first Willard probably recalls is the mass rat attack on Stiles’s sadistic boss, played with bug-eyed enthusiasm by the awesome Ernest Borgnine. This time around, Stiles’s workplace tormentor is portrayed by hard-case character actor R. Lee Ermey of Full Metal Jacket fame. After finding that he can coax his basement full of rodents to chew stuff up on cue, Stiles sets them loose on the asshole’s cherished European sedan.

That results in the first of Willard’s two entertaining scenes. Otherwise, viewers have to suffer through the predictable putdowns from Stiles’s sickly hag mom and the inexplicable interest in him shown by an attractive coworker. At one point, the latter character gives Stiles a nice orange house cat and we get to see it piss in terror before being chased down and devoured by hungry rats while Wacko Jacko croons the pretty theme song from Ben.

Believe it or not, that’s the other entertaining scene.

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