I went to see Willard the other night; it was ok but I wasn’t that impressed. I liked Crispin Glover’s creepy performance, but the plot and pacing of the movie were terrible.
The premise of the movie was pretty good, if formulaic: loner/misfit finds out he has an interesting power and unleashes his anger upon his tormenters. However, several plot decisions do not make sense, or they were too oblique for me to read… At one point, Willard uses the rats to kill his boss. This goes off in a neat set of scenes, several of which are in the trailer. After the fact, Willard + rats go home, wherein Willard tries to lock the rats in the basement and kill them. Whyfor you do this? I was scratching my head, trying to figure it out. Did Willard have no need for them anymore? Was he ready to give up his power and lead a quiet life?
The pacing was off, also. Several critics suggest the pacing is supposed to take us into a character study, into Willard’s mind to understand his motivations. His motivations are pretty clear already. He’s a laughingstock to his coworkers, his boss hates him and wants him to quit, and his mother is a fussy, domineering old woman (à la Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho, but here she’s real). There are numerous “quiet zones” in the movie where Willard is just looking around, thinking. These zones detract from the pacing.
The rats are well done. Most of the time, the rats are real; over 500 were used for the movie, according to the Willard movie site. The horde of rats is really creepy to see, especially the “elevator scene” in the trailer!
I liked the sound effects a lot. There’s a lot of surround sound of the pitter-patter of little rats’ feet throughout the movie. It’s especially noticable anytime the rats surround anything. The music is not overdone, to “add to” the creepy experience. I’m thinking primarily about “Resident Evil”, where there’s music during pretty much all the zombie attacks. It’s ok for an action movie (which I consider RE), but horror movies are better served with no music in the scary places. Here, with an exception or two, the rats get the sound stage to themselves when they do their thing.
The ending begs a sequel, which the original Willard (1971) did not. This is a let down, and a typical Hollywood way of doing things. I’ll point again to Resident Evil, where yes, the plot lent itself to a sequel, and there was one “survivor” Alice (Milla Jovovich). This is in keeping with the games. I’d also point to the original “Night of the Living Dead”, where all the main characters were killed. An ironic and tragic ending. This did not stop sequels from being made, but it was the zombies that made the sequels, not the principal characters. Unfortunately, we’re not treated so well in Willard, where there will probably be another, with Crispin as the lead, with a different set of rats. That isn’t how it’s supposed to go! It’s formula, it’s Hollywood, and it’s a letdown.
All in all, it was entertaining, in a “C” sort of way. If you watch it, don’t compare it to the original, and really suspend your disbelief!