March 14, 2003
Back in 1971, an unlikely film about a young man and his rats rose above the competition to become the fourth-biggest hit of the year, spawning a sequel that may be most famous for the Michael Jackson song that appears on the soundtrack.
That film was called Willard, and starred Bruce Davison as a shy man who has an unusual connection with rats, and uses them for rather sociopathic purposes. Apparently, execs at New Line Cinema believed this story was strong enough to merit a remake, and though at first glance the subject matter may look laughable, it actually has the potential to be a very creepy and well-handled update thanks to the brilliant casting of certified loon Crispin Glover. For those of you who are only familiar with his most recent work in the blockbuster Charlie's Angels, see River's Edge or At Close Range or especially his July 1987 appearance on David Letterman ("I'm strong and I can KICK!") for a true indication of his inspired lunacy.
So Glover was clearly a natural choice to play the shy young man who is socially awkward and stuck in a terrible job, but suddenly finds himself with hundreds of friends when he discovers he has a powerful bond with the rats who live in his basement. Not even the beautiful office temp who is kind to Willard can overcome the connection he shares with Ben, Socrates and the other rats who dwell in the legion. When Willard faces a sudden tragedy, he uses the ravenous rat army to exact revenge on his adversaries.
It sounds campy, and perhaps it will be, but there's reason to believe the story may be deftly handled, as the team that cowrote the clever and popular Final Destination is responsible for the script. Glen Morgan, one of the two writers, will also be behind the camera for the first time, so the hope would be that this won't be just your typical Animals Eating People type of plot. He's working with a $20 million budget and will use a combination of CGI and live rats to translate the creepy tale to film.
Also worthy of note is a fine supporting cast that includes R. Lee Ermey (probably best known for his over-the-top Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket) and Laura Harring, who turned heads in the 2001 David Lynch sleeper Mulholland Drive. There's a lot of reason to believe that Willard may be a surprise break out that even has potential to have some staying power at the box office, particularly as the recently released trailer is receiving a fair amount of buzz. Expect New Line to give it a strong marketing push similar to that of Final Destination 2. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Comparison films for Willard
|Deep Blue Sea
|Eight Legged Freaks