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(2003)

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7/10
Doctor Dolittle for horror lovers
Leofwine_draca17 March 2012
This reworking of a long-forgotten '70s horror about a maladjusted young man who possesses an uncanny power over rats is one of the better remakes out there. That's because it has a quirky style all of its own, a kind of dark humour that reminded me best of RE-ANIMATOR, although the two films are very different. WILLARD finds the remarkable Crispin Glover playing a strange loner who spends a lot of time hanging out in his elderly mother's basement, while being browbeaten by his belligerent boss at work.

For those who don't know, this film's all about rats. I'm something of a rodent lover, so I was immediately entertained by these little beasts: as animal actors go, they're excellent, and the way the filmmakers put character into a couple of the critters is very clever. Socrates is the lovable friend in many heartwarming scenes, while Ben is the creepy, imposing hulk of a rat. Watching Glover's interplay with the animals is a lot of fun – a kind of DOCTOR DOLITTLE for the horror crowd, if you will.

Unlike many modern horror films, the emphasis of WILLARD is on the plotting. Some might find the pace rather slow, but it works in the film's favour: this is a character piece more than standard schlocky fare. It goes without saying that Glover is excellent, channelling a young Jeffrey Combs and immediately getting the audience on side despite his character's quirks. He's given strong support from R. Lee Ermey (typically larger than life) and the attractive Laura Harring as a potential love interest. Writer/director Glen Morgan brought a lot of life to THE X-FILES during his time on the show, and he does the same trick here.
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8/10
A Weird Tale About Loneliness, Friendship, Greed and Revenge
claudio_carvalho28 March 2004
Willard Stiles (Crispin Glover) is a lonely and deranged man living in an old mansion with his sick mother Henrietta Stiles (Jackie Burroughs). His father committed suicide after losing his own company to his former partner and friend Frank Martin (R. Lee Ermey). Due to a clause in the selling contract, Willard can not be fired from his job while his mother is alive. However, Frank abuses of Willard, humiliating and spending a horrible treatment with him in front of his colleagues. The basement of Willard's house is infested of rats and mice, and Willard capture a beautiful white mouse in a trap. Willard rescues the mouse, calls him Socrates and becomes his friend. Socrates is a leader and the other rats obey him, except the huge Ben. The animals are trained by Willard, who uses them for his revenge. This weird tale about loneliness, friendship, greed and revenge has the same style of most Tim Burton's movies. It is a black comedy very dark, quite gothic, having weird characters, but great performances and good effects. Although dealing with a nasty theme (rats and mice), it is not a disgusting film. It is not recommended for all audiences, but I liked it a lot. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): `A Vingança de Willard' (`The Revenge of Willard')
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6/10
Rats horror film
ma-cortes7 July 2004
The movie centers about Crispin Glover a quirky and lone man about thirty years old . He lives with her ill mother and amount of mouses into his home . He has got as enemy to the office chief . Rats will help him to revenge .

The film will have to flee whom don't like the rats because they appear in everyone shots , close-ups , foreground and background of the flick . There are thousand rats and they have been made by animatronics and computer generator specials effects(FX).

Acting by Crispin Glover is excellent , interpreting to Willard as a twisted mind is fantastic , likeness to Norman Bates/Anthony Perkins of Psychosis . R. Lee Ermey as the evil and villain chief is perfect such as his acting in ¨Full metal jacket¨ , Laura Elena Harring (Mulholland drive) is cute .

Direction by Glen Morgan is nicely made , cinematography by Robert MacLachlan is first-rate and Shirley Walker's musical score is gorgeous.

It's a remake to another 1971 film featured by Bruce Davison who only appears in photography as Willard's father into this 2003 film.

Rating 6/10 , average .
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When the boss is away,the rats will play.
dbdumonteil26 November 2006
...and in my humble opinion,except for Ernst Borgnine,Glen Morgan outdistances the 1971 original version.It was not a hard task ,mind you,cause that version was rather listless ;it's not the same problem as that of "the haunting" (1963) and its "remake" .

I take Crispin Glover any day over Bruce Davison -here represented by an apparition as Willard's father on the photographs-.Davison was too boy-next-door,too good -looking.Glover gives a raw,dirty, over the top performance.The special effects are far superior to the original's and for once it was necessary.The love affair is kept to the very minimum -no intimate dinner for Willard and Cathryn- focusing on the poor lad's humiliations (it is a kind of male "Carrie" )

Glen Morgan has a good sense of humor ,often black humor: the nursery rhyme "Three blind mice " (See how they run/They come to take you away)comes back several time ,always at the right moment.I dig this line when the boss is killing Willard's pet : "Hi Disney,this is Mickey Mouse speaking! We 'll meet again!" Another hilarious sequence: the boss is watching naked women on his computer and realizes that his mouse ...has turned into a rat!

The endings of the two versions are different ,but I have my doubts: might they think of "Willard 2"?
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3/10
A pretty disturbing film any way you look at it
Quinoa198415 March 2003
I never saw the original Willard, which probably put me in a disadvantage while watching this sequel-cum-remake starring Crispin Glover in the lead role. From watching it with a fresh mind, I could see that the film had moments of inspiration, a horror movie that has few real scares but builds a lot of its feel by pure atmosphere, which indeed becomes over-bearing by the third act once the rats take over the Willard estate. Anyone who decides to see this rather B-film will know that it's best assest is its creepiness, however they may recognize that it doesn't have the shock value that the original probably contained.

Glover astonishingly is really effective in the lead, as a lonely freak who looks after his deteriorating mother in a house that slowly reveals itself to be infested with rodent after rodent after rodent, which Willard clings to and controls like a gothic pied-piper. Glover captures brilliantly what's essential to his character- the perturbed eyes, the erratic and emotionally constipated attitudes, even the haircut give him an odd personality, and by the end he does give a small yet in-tune lead performance following years of supporting roles. R. Lee Ermy is equally good as the condescending boss of Willard's.

The problem I saw walking out though was that there was really no one to cling to in the movie- even Ben, the largest of the rats who also resembles a beaver in a few moments, is an evil, um, rat, and as the downspiral occurs for Willard into a match between him and Ben, the movie gets exasperating. Worth a look, but don't be surprised if you feel the need to walk out for a few minutes before resuming the experience. B
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8/10
Macabre fairy tale. Very atmospheric!!
Coventry20 March 2004
Glen Morgan's Willard isn't your ordinary mainstream remake! Unlike the bombastic and computerized money-making films like …oh, I don't know Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 13 Ghosts and Dawn of the Dead who're merely loud updates of classic horrific tales. Willard is a modest and respectful production that lays the stress on atmosphere and scenery instead of gory effects and good-looking young flesh. Willard is the tale of an extremely introvert middle-aged man (lives with his needy mother, no girlfriend, stuck in a hopeless job) who discover his ability to control and command little rodents…rats in particular. By communicating with these rats, he finally discovers what friendship feels like and it also gives him the opportunity to satisfy his deepest feelings of anger and vengeance towards his boss – Frank Martin. But the mob of rats slowly turns against Willard as he doesn't treat them alike. Thanks to the depressing scenery (Willard's old house, the morbid factory) and the under-exposure at times, Willard often looks like a 40's chiller! There's a good and constant variation of tension and sadistic humor, with the cat-chase as the absolute highlight to state this. Crispin Glover – the man with the most incomprehensible cult following in the film industry – is brilliantly cast as Willard. His goofy – yet spooky – charisma fits his character really well. R. Lee Ermey receives the change to be his old boisterous self again as the dreary factory-owner who's out to destroy Willard life. To conclude the cast, Laura Harding is very charming as the understanding and helpful Cathryn. This film may not show as many bloodshed and eccentric slaughtering as the nowadays public demands, but it surely made an impression on me. Willard is a very atmospheric and often frightening horror storytelling with some adorable fairy-tale aspects and playfully imaginative aspects. Highly recommended. I saw this film at a during a festival-night…after a series of gory slashers. The over-enthusiast public didn't appreciate it that much but I trust in the fact that Willard will build up a solid cult reputation.
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6/10
Creeping, crawling revenge.
michaelRokeefe23 October 2004
Chilling and spine tingling. Willard Stiles(Crispin Glover)is a social misfit taking care of his ill and fragile mother(Jackie Burroughs)in a musty old mansion that is also home to a nation of rats. Willard finds himself constantly humiliated in front of his co-workers and eventually fired by his cruel and butt hole of a boss Mr. Martin(R. Lee Ermey). A co-worker(Laura Elena Haring)has feelings for the quirky Willard; but he quickly becomes obsessed with his friendship with a rat he names Socrates. Socrates has competition with a much larger rat named Ben; nonetheless when Socrates is killed Ben is more than willing to guide the army of basement rats to help Willard avenge himself upon his slave-driving boss. This remake of the 1971 horror classic might not be as powerful as the original, but Glover's mannerisms aid the total creepiness of this rat driven chiller.
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8/10
The rats are back.
Hey_Sweden2 February 2015
The second screen adaptation of Stephen Gilberts' book "The Ratmans' Notebooks", this is a fairly absorbing movie, relying heavily on the revenge formula and owing an obvious debt to Alfred Hitchcocks' "Psycho". Its strength really lies in the entertainment value of the performances - by both the human and rodent actors. Don't go into it expecting anything resembling a body count: it balances psychological terrors with some good old fashioned animal attacks. The leading character isn't 100% sympathetic - would it have killed him to make a little more of an effort at work? - but the connection that he forges with his four legged friends is touching in its own twisted way.

Crispin Glover plays the title role (which was originally intended for actor Doug Hutchison). Willard is an adult working a thankless job for the heartless corporate creep, Mr. Martin (R. Lee Ermey) who acquired the business started by Willards' father. Willard puts up with a lot of crap from Mr. Martin, who takes a particular delight in reading his employee the riot act in front of the other workers. Dominated by a sickly mother (Jackie Burroughs), Willard has no friends in the world - that is, until he befriends the multitude of rats taking over the family home. He loves one rat in particular, a small white rat whom he dubs Socrates, while making enemies with Ben, a larger grey-brown rat who's something of an ominous presence.

Glover is very damn good in this. Toning down some of his usual eccentricities, he instead goes for a performance of major emotional intensity. You do feel for Willard, especially when he's begging for his job. Of course, Glover is also effective at taking this character through his sharp mental decline. Ermey is absolutely delicious, in one of his better roles. Martin is the kind of guy who will buy an expensive car and flaunt it because he believes customers like seeing a businessman who's successful. Burroughs is a harridan worthy of Mrs. Bates, while Laura Elena Harring is quite appealing as the one co-worker who tries to reach out to Willard and be his friend. The rats themselves are amusing to watch; Socrates is cute and endearing and Ben does have a definite presence. The first rate animal action is supplemented by a LOT of CGI rodents.

Stylishly shot by Robert McLachlan, with striking music by Shirley Walker, this directorial effort for 'X-Files' veteran Glen Morgan is basically well done.

Both the original Jackson 5 version of the song "Ben" and a cover by Mr. Glover can be heard. And the image of Bruce Davison, the star of the original 1971 film adaptation, can be seen in a few key photographs / paintings.

Eight out of 10.
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7/10
Good remake
dbborroughs16 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Remake of the semi-classic 1973 about a young man who finds he has a way with rats and trains them to get his revenge. Its been ages since I saw the original, which seemed better a film to talk about rather than see. There was something about the very idea of the film being better in idea rather than to see. This remake is about the same. It's a well made film that raises the weakness of familiarity by casting Crispin Glover as Willard. Glover is a unique character who puts his own spin on things that keeps things fresh. I don't think the film is neither better nor worse then the original, its about the same on the entertainment scale. It's a fright film that works nicely because mood and character rather than because of blood and guts. Worth a look.
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8/10
A Solid Remake with a Memorable Crispin Glover!!!
zardoz-1310 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Crispin Glover delivers a tour-de-force performance as the eponymous character in the horror chiller "Willard," a remake of the 1971 original with Bruce Davison and Sandra Locke. Freshman director Glen Morgan, who produced "The X-Files" television series, does an exemplary job with this critter killer thriller about a repressed young man who adopts rats and turns them into his own personal army. Willard is the son of the man who created The Stiles Company, but this pedigree affords Willard nothing in the way of wealth. Frank Martin (R. Lee Emery of "Full Metal Jacket") owns the business and appears to keep Willard on his payroll simply to bully and berate him for his poor work habits. Willard lives at home with his decrepit mother who swears that she hears rats. Mrs. Stiles (Jackie Burroughs of "The Dead Zone") is a hopelessly grotesque old lady whose toe nails are evolved into sea shells, and she knows that Willard will never amount to anything because he has been saddled with a weak name. Willard gets unmercifully chewed out every time he shows up to work by Frank Martin. At one point, the cruel Martin slips a padlock on the elevator that Willard takes up to the office and effectively locks the poor guy in it. Later, a fellow employee, Cathryn (Laura Harring of "The Punisher"), slips the lock off the door. Cathryn has a soft spot for Willard, but he hasn't evolved into a red-blooded American male.

Primarily, Willard qualifies as a Milquetoast, a timid, harmless fellow who wouldn't hurt a fly. In this instance, he wouldn't hurt a mouse. After several unsuccessful attempts to catch rodents on traps and with sticky paper, Willard cannot bring himself to kill the white mouse that he has caught with sticky paper. He saves the white mouse with an ill-fated death and befriends him. Ultimately, he calls this mouse Socrates. After he takes Socrates into his bosom, he spots a bigger mouse, literally a rat, that he nicknames as Ben. Ben is a super rat. He can eat his way through wood. Meantime, Willard is gradually beginning to succumb to the humiliation that Frank Martin ladles out to him. He figures out a way to order the mice and the rats around and he has them pile into big suitcases so he can lug them to Frank Martin's house. Willard wants the rodent to gnaw away the rubber lining at the bottom of the garage door and slip inside and chew up the tires on Martin's expensive car. Initially, Willard refuses to let Ben participate in his payback, but Ben has a mind of his own and sneaks into one of the satchels. While the mice are chewing away at the garage door liner, Ben hops out and munches on the garage door, clearing a hole big enough for him to get through into the garage. The next morning the word around the office concerns Martin's desecrated automobile and a police investigation. Although Willard and Socrates are fast friends, Willard literally wants nothing to do with Ben. Every time that Ben intrudes, Willard snatches him up by the tail and tosses him into the basement. Whereas Socrates is the good mouse, Ben is the big, bad rat. Eventually, Willard and Ben come face to face and have a showdown to decide who will survive. At work one day, tragedy strikes because one of Martin's secretaries encounters Socrates in the storage room, and the heartless Martin gouges the poor mouse to death. Not only has Willard lost his elderly mother, but he has also now lost his best friend. Willard shows up late on evening at the office where he finds Frank cruising through an Internet porn site. Willard loosens hundreds of rats on Martin and he dies in agony. Eventually, Willard and Ben has little use for each other, and they finally clash, but Willard triumphs over him.

There is a "Psycho" ending to "Willard" as our impressionable protagonist has managed to survive a full scale rat attack and has been incarnated in a mental hospital.

The production values and the CGI of hundreds of rats is first-rate.
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The Original Rat Pack
george.schmidt25 March 2003
WILLARD (2003) **1/2 Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring, Jackie Burroughs. Glover is perfectly cast in this fair-thee-well remake of the cult 1971 horror flick as a put-upon loner who inexplicably becomes friends with a horde of rats that prove to be a deadly force to be reckoned with and settle some personal scores along the way. Re-imagined by James Wong and Glen Morgan (who directed) the film doesn't sustain any true scares despite its computer generated vermin yet Glover makes his pathetic character reasonably sympathetic with creepy élan he usually musters in his cottage industry of off-beat introverts.
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7/10
Glover vs Ermey vs Rats!
anaconda-4065822 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Willard (2003): Dir: Glen Morgan / Cast: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Jackie Burroughs, Laura Elena Harring, Kimberly Patton: Laughable horror film as if the filmmakers want viewers to laugh. Crispin Glover plays Willard who is dominated by his senile mother and abusive and overbearing boss. He feels hopeless but finds friendship and companionship with a small white rat he names Socrates. When he learns that these rats will obey him he uses their incredible chewing power to deflate his boss's car tires. Another rat of mention is a big one named Big Ben whose rebellious nature retorts him to causing the death of Willard's mother. Amusing setup detailed with Willard bonding with these rats. Justice prevails despite the many tragedies. Director Glen Morgan gives an appealing 1970's look that works in a corny manner. Glover crosses sympathy with humour as someone socially lost but finds satisfaction in vengeful schemes that will eventually backtrack upon himself and his sanity. Jackie Burroughs as his senile mother is amusing yet very one note. R. Lee Ermey is ideal as his boss who eventually kills Socrates thus inviting the ultimate revenge. Laura Elena Harring is flat as a new secretary whose cat ends up in an unfortunate encounter with the rats. Not a bad remake although fans of the original may still gravitate towards it. Hokey and scare free film about power that is ultimately weird. Score: 7 / 10
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7/10
Decent entry, if not overtly spectacular
kannibalcorpsegrinder22 August 2017
Living with his mother, a young man living in an oppressive relationship with his mother and his boss who lord their power and authority over him until he finds the rats in his house can obey his commands and uses them to unleash his vengeance against them.

There were some good parts to this one at times. One of the main things to this one is that there's some really nice amount of scenes that showcase the relationship between each other and the rats. It's quite fun to see that they're trained to be vicious and deadly rather than just being naturally that way, a great change of pace that brings up other good parts later on. It's using stuff that will actually be useful showing them to be running through their paces or tearing into other objects that build nicely to what's coming along and it makes them feel that much more threatening. There's some fun to be had from the scenes of the rats on the move conducting their revenge as watching the rats swarm and crawl over their victims is always fun, and there's also the joy to be had from the scenes of the rats going crazy in the scene and causing untold havoc. Other scenes, from the swarming over the cat to the first confrontation in the office are really good as well, and the last scenes at the house in the end when the rats turn the tide and go on the offensive has a lot to enjoy about it from the stalking scenes to the encounter with the forces on the outside and the final comeuppance makes the film really enjoyable. These here are what work for the film as there really isn't a whole lot wrong with this one. The main flaw here is that there's a lot of wrong-doing with its rating. There's not a whole lot that can be done here, and while it does have a few good scenes here the rat attacks are really neutered. There are two big hints when they're showcased which give it away, as there's a flurry of quick-cutting that hides the violence, and the mere blood pools left aren't all that spectacular compared to what they could've been. The body count is way too small to begin with, giving it very little opportunities as well but very little kills combined with a rating that really censors everything. That also manages to make the beginning of the film a little boring, especially when it's nothing but the confrontations within the company and at home take center stage. That also brings up the last flaw here, the film's rather tired feel that nothing really all too original is explained in here. This feels just like every other type of story which features these elements is showcased and is done pretty much exactly like those types of films. Very little here manages to feel new or original, and it really feels like all the other entries which use it because of that. These, though, are all that pretty much hurt this one.

Rated PG-13: Violence, Language and violence-against-animals.
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8/10
Offbeat and inventive - a great modern remake!
The_Void8 October 2007
I'm not a big fan of the whole horror remake craze (to say the least), but the original Willard had some good ideas that weren't capitalised on, thus making it ripe for a remake - and Glen Morgan has really capitalised on that fact with this film! There aren't many remakes I will say this for - but EVERYTHING about this film is better than the 1971 original. The plot of the original film wasn't very original - taking obvious influence from Psycho and a number of offbeat 'revenge' movies. The story here plays out in more or less exactly the same way, but more is made of it, which gives every element of it more weight. The plot focuses on a loner named Willard Stiles. Willard lives with his aging, decrepit mother in an old house. Willard works for a Mr Martin, the partner of his father in the business that belonged to the pair of them. There's some litigation that says Martin can't fire Willard - but that doesn't stop him trying! Feeling humiliated at work and at the hands of his mother, Willard turns to the rats in his cellar for friendship...

One of my main criticisms of the 1971 original was that Bruce Davison wasn't creepy enough for the role. That problem has certainly been solved here as Crispin Glover was pretty much born to play this part! Glover fits the role like a glove, and even manages to convince during Willard's outburst scenes, which in fairness are pretty pathetic. The Ernest Borgnine role is taken over by R. Lee Ermey, who again fits into the role nicely. He's excellent at the sadistic roles, and this film enforces that. The opening credit sequence will give you a pretty good idea of what you're in for - director Glen Morgan has given the film a dark fantasy feel, which is brought about by the eerie old house in which most of the film takes place and the dark cinematography. The rats themselves are made much better use of in this film too, and the central pair of Socrates and Ben are almost given a human character. There's a fair bit of gore, and while the special effects can sometimes go over the top; that always fits with the style of the film. The director wasn't afraid to take a chance either - the sequence with a cat and the Jackson 5's "Ben" really ran the risk of being a little too silly, but again it comes off well. Overall, this remake is a really good film and easily one of the best modern re-imaging's. Highly recommended!
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9/10
Quite good!
Sylviastel18 July 2005
I have to say Crispin Glover was born to play the role of Williard Stiles, a lonely disturbed man beaten down by his boss at work. His mother does not even like his name and changes it to Mark. I like the usage of Bruce Davison's role in the film as Williard's father. Poor Williard, he never had much success with women, work, or friends. So he befriends a white mice that he names Socrates and he chooses him to be his sole companion and friend. That is eerie enough. Big Ben is a huge brown rat who is jealous of Socrates' place in Williard's life. Williard uses the rats and trains them to become his weapon against his vile soul-less boss, Mr. Martin. First, he uses them to seek revenge. When Socrates is murdered, Williard uses Ben and the thousands of rat followers to seek vengeance on his killer. When Williard loses his mother, we see his loneliness in life and in death. Poor Williard, he is friendless except for his Socrates. It is amazing how the rats know how to behave in this film to be dangerous and murderous. I liked the supporting cast which includes Jacie Burroughs playing poor Mrs. Stiles and Laura Elena Harring, the only human friend Williard has at all. The ending makes us want more and a sequel could just do that. Crispin Glover rarely gets to use his acting ability in other works until now. He allows the audiences to see his potential as a lead actor and not just a supporting actor. I am giving the film a 9 score because I think they could have explored Williard's painful childhood and explain the man that he becomes in this film.
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7/10
Quirky little film, not horror. Could have been more
siderite22 July 2005
I admit I've never heard of Willard until I read a comment on IMDb about horror movies and this movie being one of the best recent. So I downloaded it and watch it. After that I've learned that there was an original Willard movie and a followup.

The movie starts with an interesting idea, great performance by Crispin Glover, and a secondary cast full of merit. R. Lee Ermey and Jackie Burroughs bring the movie closer to the horror genre more than any of the rats, but I don't think it was properly categorized, not unless you have a pathological fear of mice. I personally thought they were cute and while the tension was a little high, they showed no gore whatsoever. More of a thriller, really.

This is a good and strange movie. It is full of metaphors and little details that one enjoys discovering, but even if you miss them all, it is still an interesting movie. I wouldn't call it one of the best, though. I've seen my share of weird movies lately and maybe I am a bit desensitized :)

Conclusion: I think that copying after an old movie probably spoiled the opportunity to add and change things that would have improved the quality of the script. However, since lately changes in script mean adding more gore, special effects and toilet humor, it was probably for the best.
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7/10
Devilsihly dark remake is a fresh breath of air...
MovieAddict201611 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Crispin Glover gives a splendidly dark and evil performance in "Willard," a performance that creeps you out more than any idea of killer rats ever will. The movie feels like a Tim Burton Lite, and a few times throughout the film I came close to imagining how Tim Burton would have directed the film. He probably would have gotten Johnny Depp for Willard, though, and I'm not sure if Depp would have been able to pull it off as well as Glover, who has always been a very strange character, even back when he played the shy and quirky George McFly in "Back to the Future."

If Crispin was odd in "Back to the Future," then he's part of the Manson family here. It seems to be an almost tailor-made role, one fit just for him. His character, Willard, is a mix between Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates and Adam Sandler's Barry Anderson from "Punch-Drunk Love." I half-expected to see Willard's mother jump out in front of the screen at some point in the film, only for "her" to be Willard.

Anyone familiar with the seventies should remember "Willard," and perhaps even its sequel, "Ben." I didn't know quite what to expect walking into "Willard," as I had never seen the original. It is a very dark and creepy movie, perhaps not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. It's quirky. It's creepy. It's dark and brooding. And it has a sly sinister side to it. When Willard retreats to his basement every night to train a gang of rats to carry out his evil deeds it's not really scary but rather strange in execution. Given another director this could have been another summer horror flick like "Jeepers Creepers 2," but it turned out to be a bit more than a scary movie - it's more of a freaky movie.

Willard (Glover) is a grown man who lives in a large, creepy home with his bitter old mother. He cares for her and goes to work to help support her, where he works for "Mr. Martin," a gruff old guy who claims that the reason he drives a Mercedes is for the company's benefit. He relentlessly picks on Willard, who bites his tongue in return and counts to ten.

Extremely lonely, Willard retreats into his mother's basement one night to try to get rid of some rodent infestation. Once there, he finds that he has caught a smart little white rat in one of his traps, which he frees from the sticky paper and names Socrates (because the rat is smart). Soon he finds that Socrates can understand him, as do all the other rats. He also realizes that the rats will do whatever he wants, whether it be attacking Martin's Mercedes or eating Martin to death. And so he uses them at his psychopathic will; that is, except for a very large rat named Ben, who is about the size of a small dog. Ben is smart, and tries to win Willard's attention, but Willard ignores Ben (one can understand why), and pays all the attention to Socrates. Ben doesn't like this, and so he starts commanding the gang of rats against Willard. The film ends in a strange showdown between rats and man, to say the least.

I used to have a little white rat just like Socrates, which I named Socrates, and I used to have another big, black rat, which I named Ben. (Yes, I named them after the rats from the old film.) Rats are kind little creatures but you get the idea that they are a very smart species, always scheming. Watching the "real" Ben from "Willard" is funny, because as he sits there scheming it is in all truth very honest - rats are smarter than they seem.

Willard seems to have a psychic connection between the rats. It's like the story of the dog that followed his master all the way across the Atlantic ocean, running up to him in the middle of a WWII battlefield. Some experts say that animals have boundaries with their masters that they can somehow feel, relate to or are attached to psychically. By charming Socrates, it seems that Willard opened up a sort of psychic connection between the rats, and the way he carries them around on his shoulder, and says to Socrates, "You are the only friend I've ever had," is strangely disturbing.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into "Willard," and I'm still not sure if the film used up all the potential it had. They could have spent more time focusing on Willard's development into a psychopath, more time on what the rats did, more time showing the audience that Willard is the bad guy. It seems that they go wishy-washy - are we supposed to root for Willard or not? I don't really know, but I enjoyed the movie. It's not an incredible achievment in any regard, and I left feeling a little empty but I'm glad I saw it.

3.5/5 stars -

John Ulmer
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relatively effective remake
Buddy-5113 June 2004
The remake of `Willard' proves that, in the world of movies, one decade's cause celebre can be another's box office nonentity. The 1971 `Willard' had the kind of ingenious plotting that had everybody going to see it and talking about it. In 2003, however, the new `Willard,' with the exact same plot, took in a mere $7 million in domestic receipts and made nary a ripple in the social fabric. I guess that nowadays it takes a lot more than a screen full of swarming rats to draw people into the movie houses.

Actually, despite the fact that the story lacks the shocking novelty it possessed three decades earlier, this new `Willard' is still a relatively effective chiller – slimy, creepy and extremely well acted. Willard is a social misfit who discovers that he can communicate telepathically with the rats living in the basement of the old rundown house where he lives with his demanding, life-draining invalid mother. Eventually, Willard creates his own army of rats to wreak vengeance on the boss who so callously mistreats and belittles him. But Willard also discovers that insubordination is as much a factor in the animal kingdom as it is among humans and he soon finds himself in mortal combat with the king-sized leader of the pack whom Willard has christened `Ben.'

Of all actors currently working today, Crispin Glover is the perfect choice to play Willard. Strange-looking enough already, Glover minimizes the kind of rug-chewing histrionics actors generally use when playing mentally disturbed characters, and, instead, brings a touch of humanity and pathos to the role. R. Lee Ermery is cringingly effective as Willard's boss, turning this abusive foil into a truly hissable villain. Director Glen Morgan lights the scenes very darkly, creating a world that is stark, antiseptic and faintly twisted. Thanks to computer-generated special effects, this new `Willard' can have far more rats occupying the screen at one time than could the original, though such innovation comes with a price since there are times when the shots suffer from that CGI phoniness that afflicts so many films nowadays. Still, the film gets the job done by making the skin crawl effectively from time to time.

The film features a few fun `in' jokes, including using Bruce Davison, the original Willard, as this Willard's deceased father (Davison appears only in photographs), and playing Michael Jackson's `Ben' (the title song from the original `Willard' sequel) on the soundtrack in a scene in which hordes of ravenous rats devour a terrified and hapless cat. Those rats sure do have a wicked sense of irony, don't they?
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7/10
A very good remake of the 70s film.
lost-in-limbo4 May 2020
A remake that virtually keeps the same structure, losing some, or simply confining sub-plots to install a brisk pace and focus more so on Willard and the rats, while steering towards a humorously strange, yet darker tone that was character driven and horror skewed. Well up to a point, because the 1971 cult original had a much downer ending, which I prefered. Anyhow Crispin Glover evokes weirdness and a wired-up intensity like no other and his interactions with the rats (real & CGI) is genuinely affecting watching his timid nature change with the taste of power and control when the rats come on the scene. Then things start to get out of hand when a particular rat (a creepy looking Ben) begins to disobey him. There it becomes a battle with of wits of who's in charge, and Glover along with his mannerisms (which sometimes resembles a rat) were very captivating to watch. Not forgetting Jackie Burroughs' minor turn and of course R. Lee Ermey who commands the screen as the jerk boss making Willard's life hard at work. You can't wait to see his comeuppance - "Tear him up"! Director Glen Morgan's slick, twisted vision crafts few striking set-pieces - nothing quite like the sequence involving Michael Jackson's song "Ben".
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rats are not movie stars
MLDinTN18 May 2004
I guess you could say the stars of this movie were two rats, Sorcrates and Ben. And when your movie stars rats, that leads to box office disaster, which is what happened to Willard. Also, while Crispen Glover is a good character actor, he is not a lead actor, which is another reason this movie failed. But, I do give him credit for handling live rats. Another complaint I had is I don't think the movie ever told how Willard was able to control the rats. Why did the rats listen to him? The make-up was awesome for Willard's mom, whom looked like death wormed over. Plus, his boss was good at being a jerk. But, if they were going to have the character Cathryn, why wasn't she given more to do. She was a total waste.

The computer effects with the rats were fair. You could tell they were fake, but it wasn't really obvious.

FINAL VERDICT: It was OK, but it moved too slow and not a lot of action. The rats should have been meaner and bit more people. So, I don't recommend it because the plot just doesn't do it for me.
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8/10
Willard and the army of rats
Petey-1030 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Willard is a social misfit who lives with his ill but verbally abusive mother Henrietta in an old mansion.He goes to work to his late father's company where he is humiliated by his co-workers.His boss is Mr. Martin, who is a real SOB of a guy.He wants him out of the company as soon as it is legally possible.Willard gets sympathy from the new worker of the company, Cathryn.But Willard finds the rats of his mansion to be his only friends, especially one of them, a white rat he names Socrates.And there is also one big, mean one he calls Ben.These rats could help him get rid of Mr. Martin.Willard (2003) is directed by Glen Norgan.This is a remake of the 1971 film, where the title role was played by Bruce Davison.In this one we see Bruce in the framed picture of Willard's father.I haven't seen the original movie, but I sure would like to.It also had Ernest Borgnine as Mr. Martin.There also was a sequel to that movie called Ben made the next year.The role of Willard is brilliantly portrayed by Crispin Glover, who turned 45 ten days ago.Also 45-years old Laura Elena Harring plays Cathryn.I was kind of hoping for Willard to come to his senses and him getting romantically linked to her.The role of Willard's mother is played by now 70-year old Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs.R. Lee Ermey, 65, the man of many tough guy roles plays Mr. Martin.In the music section we hear the song Ben performed by Jackson 5 and Grispin.Willard is a very fine horror drama.It gives you the creeps when you see those rats all over Willard's mother.Really worth of checking out.
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Something to Sink Their Teeth In
BaronBl00d30 May 2004
For me this re-make of the seventies classic horror film was enjoyable, inventive, and effectively creepy. Unlike Bruce Davison, used for the portrait of this Willard's father, Crispin Glover's Willard is much creepier and strange. The film does try to explain his problems with his father's death and a mother with many issues herself. Glover's portrayal is really quite fresh, and it is the major strength of this film. He has a strangely likable quality to his depressing, ostracized character. The rest of the cast does a workmanlike job. R. Lee Ermey hams it up as Willard's boss as only R. Lee Ermey can. The film has a definite dark humour side to it, and while it is out to shock and scare, it is also trying to make you laugh at things that maybe you shouldn't. Ermey's performance was one of the things: he plays a go-getter type boss concerned with prestige and wealth. He uses that loud voice to utter all kinds of useless adages about how to be successful while affecting a short curly afro-type doo. He was most amusing! Another highlight of such humour was when the rats are stalking/attacking a cat with Michael Jackson's song Ben in the background. Where do people come up with these wonderful inspirations? The rats are very effective in the film - the big rat that does Ben is awesome in size and presence. The one other thing I really enjoyed about the film was its musical score. It set the mood of the film very deftly and was memorable. What more should you ask of a film score?
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4/10
I return to the drive in for this movie....
funkyfry3 April 2003
Well, at least I made it -- after nearly a decade of missing that unique American place, the classic drive-in theater, I made it back. And for what movie -- this movie that is basically a peice of cr**. Well, that's the reason I thought it would be a fun movie to see with my buddy and burn a few and drink a few and just laugh. Well, I laughed and I thought it was a pretty fun movie, but my friend was totally bored and I did notice that a lot of people were just driving to the other screens because they were probably bored too. And, the movie started at 7:00, so please don't think they were just leaving.

Well, anyway, Crispin Glover is one of my favorite character actors, I love him in "Rubin and Ed", but he was way over the top here. A little restraint would have been way more effective. I mean, you already have Lee Ermey chewing up the scenery and spitting it out again, so maybe he just thought he had to match up or something, but he should have been able to low-key it a bit. Maybe I'm missing something, because I did think that at times he was really funny, and at other times he was totally sincere and also effective at that, but all in all I think his performance was not weighted properly to sustain for the entire film's length.

The effects seem cool, and there is a really amusing scene where Michael Jackson's first solo hit, "Ben" (from the sequel to the original film's soundtrack, I understand because Casey Kasem said it was so) is played over the rats having a meal on Frisky.

Too many threads are left untied at the film's close (such as -- why didn't that chick ever ask Willard how her cat was? did I miss it?), but all in all I would recommend this movie to people that like movies about animals killing people. Come on, there's too many of these movies out there for it to be just me and all the other Fangoria geeks, I know a lot of people out there must love these movies!

But they didn't sit down for 2003's "Willard".
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8/10
Goodnight, Clark
Anonymous_Maxine13 January 2005
It's easy to see the elements of this movie that led to its Luke-warm at best public reception. As Julie Ng's wonderful making-of documentary included on the DVD explains, it quietly disappeared from theaters two weeks after its release. I can easily see people being put off by a movie about a guy who raises vast numbers of rats in his basement and then becomes a sort of lord and master of them, teaching them to follow his orders and to do things like climb into briefcases and chew up tires at his command. On the other hand, I can also see a lot of people seeing stuff like that in this movie and then being unable to look past it and see how well made and performed this film is.

Crispin Glover is an incredibly impressive actor, and he fits into this role so comfortably that it is amazing to me that it took so many other actors turning the part down before it was offered to him. I think many of the other actors would have been good in the role as well, most notably Doug Hutchison, who played Percy in The Green Mile, but Crispin Glover was just outstanding. My favorite parts of the movie were the scenes at the very beginning, such as the one scene where Willard has just walked up the stairs and his sick mother calls from the other room, asking why he's up so late and what he's been doing. The camera is focused on Willard's face the entire time, and is a great example of how amazingly well Crispin Glover is able to act with his face.

Willard has been living with his sick mother, caring for her and working at an office job at a company that his late father owned. He lived a very isolated life, leaving home only to go to work, where his boss is constantly trying to figure out how to get rid of him. His mother insults him with careless but deeply damaging comments like maybe he would be able to find a girl if he had a better name. In one scene she decides that maybe Clark would be a better name, so she's going to call him Clark from now on. It's not hard to see why he's a little "off." Willard's mother hears rats crawling around in the basement and is always yelling at Willard to go do something about it, so in a monumental act of rebellion he decides to feed and cultivate them rather than killing them. He escapes the dreariness and depression of his everyday life by raising these rats, which are his only real friends, and ultimately uses them to exact his revenge on the world by which he has been so abused.

This, of course, is where the movie turns decisively toward cult status. I haven't seen the original Willard at the time of this writing, but this remake has certainly earned itself cult classic status, which it could never transcend but which I think it deserves to. It is very competently made, richly directed and acted, but the subject matter prevents it from being accepted by wider tastes. It's not a movie for all audiences, but is very well made within its genre.

Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses is another recent example of a movie that is spectacularly well made but was not accepted well by the public, probably because the majority of movie-going audiences just don't have the appetite for that kind of raw horror anymore. Rob Zombie just doesn't care, he made the kind of movie that he wanted to see, and he deserves respect for that. Similarly, Willard is a movie that believes in itself, which is certainly more than can be said of much of the empty drivel released by Hollywood these days.
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4/10
No wear near as good as the (1972) version
atinder7 April 2013
Just seen the remake of this movie,

I thought this movie being made in early 00s would be a lot better then first movie and a lot more stuff to happen in the movie and better done.

I didn't think the Willard (1971) was great movie, I thought it was decent movie , I do think that movie was much better then this remake.

I need to compare to the original as I only saw that 2 days ago, so in still really fresh in my mind.

I didn't really like this remake, Willard is a bit stranger in bad way, I found it a little confusing at times in the movie, I didn't really buy in connection with the rats at all.

I didn't feel sorry for him as much I did feel sorry Willard 1971, they did a better story in this movie, when you get to warm to Willard but in this remake it dose not happen, Felt they missing out of the story.

I got a bit fed up with Willard as he set up these traps after the rats did him favour, That didn't seem to make sense to me.

There are some scenes, I just found silly, when the cats come in the room and runs to chair and then turn stereo on which starts playing Michael Jackson Ben song.

That made me laugh so much, I found scenes very funny.

Why did they mess up with the ending, first ending was so much better, This remake as made me appreciate (1972) movie more.

The acting in this movie was decent but some of the scenes the acting just way of the top at times, it ends up looking really silly.

4 out of 10 Worth watching once!
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