It's obvious in a relatively short amount of time that Willard is not a horror movie per se, but more of an extremely black comedy. After all, this is the story of a man with no friends who befriends rats and has the power to control them. Two words perfectly characterize this film, a remake of the 1971 movie of the same name; Crispin Glover. Glover is one of the stranger actors working in movies today. His mannerisms, the way he talks, his unique look, and his choice of roles perpetuate a kooky persona he's cultivated about himself. Glover (Bartleby, Like Mike) is a fascinating actor and he always holds one attention when he is on the screen, mainly because nobody has a clue what he is going to do next.

That may not necessarily be the case with Willard, which follows the standard revenge fantasy outline. Willard (Glover) lives with his mother (Jackie Burroughs, A Guy Thing, Lost and Delirious), an old harpy. She is a wrinkled hag that looks like she is about to keel over and die. All day she complains about and to Willard. His job is not that different. His imperious boss Frank Martin (R. Lee Ermey, Frank McKlusky, C.I., The Salton Sea) personal mission is to make Willard's life a living hell. He cannot fire Willard out of respect for Willard's late father, who owned the company Willard and Martin work for. An inside joke in the film is that Bruce Davison appears in portraits as Willard's late father. Davison played Willard in the original film.

Because Willard feels tormented both at work and at home, he is often a cowering fool. That is, until he discovers that he can control rats. He befriends a white one he calls Socrates, and finds solace with his new friends. As he realizes he can exert more power, he begins to become more ambitious in what he plans to do with his rats. The only rat he is wary of is a huge black one he calls Ben. He feels that Ben is jealous of his friendship with Socrates. Watching Glover tenderly talk to and pet Socrates is truly one of the more bizarre scenes in recent film. And his friendship with these rats is the catalyst he needs to come out of his shell. It gives him confidence, which soon turns to arrogance. There's also a pretty pointless role for Laura Elena Harring (John Q., Mulholland Dr.), who plays a co-worker who is the only person to reach out to Willard as a friend.

To say that Willard becomes homicidal does not give anything away. Director Glen Morgan, who also adapted the retelling, knows that this partially a horror movie, so it goes in that awkward direction. Most of the rats are computer-generated, and the film does a very good job on them. Morgan keeps the lights low (probably from his experiences on The X-Files) and gives everything a run-down, grimy look. It's also hard to tell exactly when Willard takes place. There is nothing specific to nail down a time; it could be now, or it could be twenty years ago. All this is to establish mood, and it does an effective job of giving Willard a creepy feel to it, like something is not right. Willard is not a great movie, and is probably not even a good one, but it is different enough to merit watching, especially for Glover.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG-13 for terror/violence, some sexual content, and language.

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