I never saw the Willard of 1971. But I just saw the Willard of 2003. This is a movie made to freak people out like nothing ever made. How much so? The opening credits, apart from being the best opening credits since Catch Me if You Can, are creepy as anything in From Hell. Prior to those credits, I had though that no movie sequence could be more surreal then many of those in From Hell. But I've been proven wrong.

Once the credits die down, it starts simply enough. We hear a voice, that of Willard (Crispin Glover)'s mother, telling him that there are rat's in the basement. So, he goes shopping for mouse traps, ending up with the second largest set of traps in cinematic history. When he takes pity on the only rat to get caught in one of his traps, he decides to make him a pet, by name of Socrates. And so it begins, as he raises his own personal rat army. Around here, you first see how good the camera work, or the directing (done by Glen Morgan), or the rat coaching, or something is: even rats shredding paper comes across as a disturbing, unnatural, even unholy activity. If that sounds easy, go to your hamster cage and watch the hamster shred a paper towel roll. Exciting? And that's probably harder to chew through.

Why is it so good? Probably because of Crispin Glover. Now, I don't know much about him, and was I not on the IMDB right now I wouldn't know his name. But his Willard is among the most dark and calmly psychopathic characters I've ever seen. And yet, when he's back with Socrates, his "best and only friend", he is somehow tender. Around a woman who seems interested in him (oddly enough), he's awkward. Willard is never just the Pied Piper; he’s a insecure, lonely young man whose only friend is a rat that he just met. If there's a person who can do a better job at being Willard Stiles then Glover, he should probably be locked up for his own safety.

The rats, surprisingly, are quite effective when they need to act. I'm not sure whether some of the rats existed and some didn’t, or what not, but it worked quite well. The massive crowds of rats were terrifying. And for those who don't like cats, you'll be pleased to know that a defenseless feline will meet it's maker for your amusement, as well as to show how evil the rats are.

In the third act, the movie, sadly, takes a somewhat down turn. It's still going to make you feel ill at ease, which is really why you came to the movies. But it won't just be that. I'll put it as plain as I can: there are way, way, way too many rats. It's like the room with all the snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark (If I haven't mixed my Indiana Jones films up), only with every snake being replaced by several rats. It seems exsessive; it is excessive. And yet, it works.

Its hard to say what Willard is. At time’s it can be funny, but it’s no comedy. Willard gets revenge, but it isn't a revenge movie. It’s no slasher film, though it could have been made one quite easily. It’s dark and psychological, with subtle acting and an ocean of rats. Although at this point it doesn’t mean anything, I honestly say that it’s the best movie of 2003 that I’ve seen.

Information taken from the Internet Movie Database:
Directed by Glen Morgan
Crispin Glover . . . Willard Stiles
R. Lee Ermey . . . Frank Martin
Running time: 95 min. Rated PG-13
Produced by New Line

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