Studio: New Line
Film Length: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: DD EX 5.1 Surround, DD Stereo Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
The past couple of decades remakes have taken over the horror genre but for some odd reason it was always the classics being remade. Some like John Carpenter’s The Thing and the 1990 version of Night of the Living Dead worked while others such as House on Haunted Hill fell on its face and was more of an insult to the original than anything else. I never really understood the point of remaking great films and I always asked myself why the studios didn’t try to take bad movies and make them good. With 2003’s Willard that happened to come true. The original 1971 version with Ernest Borgnine has a small cult following but in my opinion its one of the worst horror films of the decade.
If you’ve seen the first film then you pretty much know the story for this remake. Willard (Crispin Glover) is a lonely man who lives in a huge house with his dying and over controlling mother. Willard has a job but is constantly picked on by his boss (R. Lee Ermey) who he has known since childhood. Willard’s father was a business partner but after his death his current boss has seen him as nothing more than dirt to walk on. Willard’s co-workers see him as an outcast and that’s why he has no friends.
Back at his house his mother begins to complain that there are rats in the basement. Willard buys all the supplies to kill them and eventually catches one only to let it from because he doesn’t have the strength to kill it. He eventually gives this rat a name and starts hanging out in the basement with it. Soon other rats are showing up and Willard feeds them all and soon he considers them his only friend. There’s one rat however who doesn’t do everything Willard says and his name is Ben. Ben is an overly large rat who seems to have control over the others and soon Willard puts them to the test. After losing his job and the threat of losing his house, Willard sets his friends out to destroy all those people who tormented him throughout his life.
This version of Willard is certainly a lot better than the original but sadly this one here still isn’t a good movie. This one here is more stylish, better directed, better acted and features more rats but the problem is that his a horror film. It’s a horror film that doesn’t contain any scares and I’m really not sure if the director tried to make any. There’s a scene at the beginning where a fuse blows and this here is pretty much the only time the director tries to get a jump from the viewer. The rest of the time he tries to use the rats as fear but this doesn’t work because of Willard.
Willard treats the rats as if they were a dog or cat so there’s no point in the viewer being scared by them or being put off by them. The scenes with Willard and his rats is more cute than scary so when the rats go on the attack there’s really nothing for us to fear because we know they are protecting their friend. Another problem are the rats. Some of the rats are real and other’s are CGI effects yet it’s pretty amazing what they are able to do. The scenes with the real rats are do so well that you’ll be asking yourself how they were able to do the scene and that’s not something you want to be asking yourself while trying to be scared.
The best thing about Willard is the amazing performance by Glover who has become a cult hero among horror fans the past decade. His sunken eyes and weak body structure make us understand his character from the first time we see him. His shyness and stutter makes us understand why he has no friends and it makes us care for him. Glover does a brilliant job at showing Willard as a lonely and tormented soul and his fall into madness is very well done. R. Lee Ermey also does a nice job as the evil boss.
The fine performances aside there’s really no reason to watch this film. I can’t imagine any horror fan being entertained by this thing and I seriously doubt the non-horror fans would be interested in this revenge tale. With this second failed attempt at making this film I guess it’s time they give up and move to something else. Perhaps a boy and his ants that goes on a rampage. Or perhaps a boy and his pet turtles. Anything but these rats, which just aren’t scary in the least bit.
VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. New Line has delivered another wonderful performance making this another reference disc. The picture quality is perfect every step of the way with very detailed and strong colors that leap off the screen. There’s a wonderful moment in the film where Willard is walking to his boss’s house and the streets are full of various colors, which really shines here. The darker scenes feature wonderfully dark blacks without any speckles or other problems. The color tone throughout looks very natural.
AUDIO---We get Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround tracks. The 5.1 track is wonderfully well done, although it isn’t reference quality. The dialogue is very strong and clear without any problems. The music score sounds wonderfully and well detailed coming from the speakers but the real joy are all the sound effects used in the Surround’s. There’s a scene early in the film where a fuse blows and the effects here really stick out as something neat. The various rat noises are also very well done and sounds great.
EXTRAS---For starters we get a theatrical trailer and three television spots. Up next is an audio commentary with director Glen Morgan, producer James Wong and actors Glover and Ermey. The commentary track is pretty interesting when they are talking about the various CGI effects and how they got the rats to do what they wanted. There also too many boring moments however, which makes the track tough to listen to. Glover talks a lot about his character and various scenes that didn’t make the movie. There’s also talk about how this was supposed to be somewhat of a sequel to the original film. Up next is a featurette called Rat People: Friend or Foes, which runs around 18 minutes. This here talks about rats and their place in society. Unless you’re a rat lover I doubt you’ll get too much from this. Up next is a full length documentary called The Year of the Rat, which runs 78 minutes and is quite entertaining. A film student decided to make a documentary on the making of Willard so we get to see a lot of behind the scenes stuff from pre-production all the way up to the theatrical release. The DVD also contains Crispin Hellion Glover’s music video for “Ben”, which also has an optional commentary. Finally we get twelve alternate and deleted scenes, which is pretty interesting. Included are two alternate endings, which in my opinion are better than what’s featured in the film. DVD-Rom features include a script to screen screenplay, a rat gallery and a trivia game.
OVERALL---I’m not a fan of the original film and I’m not a fan of this one either. Why they wanted to remake Willard is beyond me but at least it does improve over the original. New Line has delivered another brilliant DVD with a flawless transfer and a very nice sound mix especially during all the rat attacks. The extras are certainly the highlight of this disc with the documentary being the key point. Fans will certainly want to check out the alternate endings as well.
Release Date:October 7, 2003