Screenwriter Glen Morgan’s directorial debut, Willard, remakes the 1971 B-horror movie of the same name. The title character is a frustrated young dude who discovers he can get hordes of rats to follow his orders. But since most viewers under 30 wouldn’t know the low-budget original, Geezer and Weezer, our cross-generational tag team, didn’t think comparisons would be very useful in this, their debut conversation-review of up-and-coming action, horror, comedy and other genre flicks.
Geezer: The opening credit sequence reminded me a little of the animated stuff that was going on in …
Weezer: The Nightmare Before Christmas …
G: Yeah, also Dead Alive, the way things peel and change in rapid animation, all grungy and funky. A pool of blood turns into a brick. What about Crispin Glover in the lead?
W: He manages to pull off the creepiness of Willard.
G: Watching him felt like getting my teeth drilled or something.
W: Isn’t it supposed to be like that, just so eerie and tense?
G: It was painful to watch him try so hard with the character. Underneath, this whole movie is a remake of Psycho.
W: With the mom …
G: The mom and the end where he’s talking in jail.
W: Also the house, the girl and everything pounding on him telling him that he’s stupid. It’s not so much stealing from Psycho, but that Hitchcock’s movie was influenced by real-life events. In Freudian psychology you find creepy cases of stuff like this. Psycho takes it to an extreme. It’s not like they’re ripping off Psycho’s concept, because there are these kind of relationships. Some of my friends’ moms are …
W: Not anywhere near like that, but we all think they’re pretty controlling.
G: But in the way it treats the mom, this movie has a total terror of old age, of mortality, her grungy toenails, the horrible slime coming out of her mouth. It turns the old person into a kind of ghoul.
W: That’s all just to set the mood. The filmmakers want the movie to have this twisted, weird overtone — for her to be so physically unattractive, unappealing …
G: Repulsive …
W: There you go. She is ugly, but the most important thing is that Willard still loves her and takes care of her. Rats are ugly, but he loves rats. So that’s the relationship. He finds compassion in his rat friend Socrates. And it’s because of his training of taking care of his ghoul of a mom that he’s able to look beyond the fact that rats are disgusting.
G: There’s also a kind of ecology consciousness in reverse here, a terror of the natural world.
W: Well, the rats are a force to be reckoned with. Even their master, Willard, can’t always control them.
G: Glover’s acting is out of control and that’s the director’s fault. You can’t let an actor just chew the scenery, go nuts screaming and hysterical. There are parts that just don’t ring right.
W: But that’s the writing as well as the directing, both by Morgan. You can feel Glover at the edge of his character, really stretching out, searching for something that’s not there. In the funeral scene, he’s trying his hardest as an actor. I’ll give him an A for effort, but the scene can’t work no matter how well he acts in it.
I’d give this movie three stars until the last 45 minutes. I don’t know what I expected to see happen, but at its zenith, its climax, I felt extremely let down, like, “I waited this long for this?” You get a hollow ending, totally lackluster and unsatisfactory.
G: What will kids think of Willard?
W: First off, it’s advertised wrong. Kids who go to see horror movies want to see blood and guts. They want some kind of tension, some attractive girl being chased. There’s nothing here really for most young kids to see, unless they’re …
G: Frustrated with their parents.
W: Not even that. The most appealing part of this film is its style, but that doesn’t really make up for the ending. As a horror movie or thriller, it’s weak. I thought I was going to be much more repulsed by the swarms of rats, but not once did it creep me out at all. The most disturbing visuals were the scenes with his mom.
G: Do kids pay attention to style or do they just care about content?
W: Kids always pay attention to style. There’s kids who don’t know it, but they do anyway. You want to assume that kids are just this uneducated mass that Hollywood appeals to at the box office by making another mindless action film, but style is important to them. They aren’t going to go see Willard, because there’s nothing to pull them in … just a bunch of rats.
Kids would be more inclined to go see a movie called Rats, about New York City with millions of rats coming out of the sewers, this big epidemic killing thousands of people. You’d get some businessman scared shitless, who locked himself in his car – it’s filling with rats and he’s freaking out. They’re biting at his Armani suit and hanging from his tie … now that’s funny and kids are laughing in the theater. That movie would be more successful because there’d be a higher body count.
George Tysh (Geezer) is the Metro Times arts editor. Bruno Tysh (Weezer) is a high school senior. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.