A stylishly hammy, over the top and somewhat twisted empowerment fable – “Willard” works as a mid-range “X-Files” episode which is a shame as its made by two of the more creative talents to come out of that series – Glen Morgan & James Wong.
Its definitely a step up from their woeful Jet Li sci-fi flick “The One”, but still not near the modern popcorn classic that “Final Destination” became. Why? I guess the ‘social outcast gets payback’ theme has been done to death before and sadly this brings nothing new to the table. Allusions to Hitchcock abound (especially “Psycho”), there’s a welcome sense of morbidity to everything and despite a slow and repetitive first act, the pace for the most part moves along quite effectively.
The whole film centers on Crispin Glover’s performance and in some ways its easy to sympathise with the character. However the sheer lack of assertiveness at first to the all too rapid reversal is milked to death by the actor who has the creepy look down and can effectively portray bottled up rage & angst, but the sheer ‘lack of balls’ makes him so timid he can be frustrating.
Laura Harring at least takes the material seriously and plays her love interest character at a nice and subdued level. Both Jackie Burroughs & R. Lee Ermey overdo it as a sick mother and asshole employer respectively – both are so annoying they should’ve met the wrong end of a hammer years ago, so its fun to see them finally get their just desserts albeit in rather clean cut and unhorrific ways.
There’s also a fun ‘rat powerplay’ subplot between the small white Socrates and the cat-sized dirty rodent Ben, the rodent population of this movie easily outdoing the interest level of any of the human stars. The rat attack sequences slowly start to build up and unfold in an effective way and whilst they do get CG-ish toward the end, in the early stages they are unnervingly creepy (although the way they obey Willard’s wishes so fast feels like they cut out a big sequence).
The music is nice and twisted at times, whilst Morgan in his directing debut shows a more adept than expected in the task. For the material though it should’ve been either darker or funnier than what they ended up with (the cat table sequence hints at would could’ve been). Still this quirky tale has its own charms.