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Willard

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Willard

Cast:
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Willard

Cast:

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Remaking the 1971 rats-on-the-rampage thriller Willard may have presented some difficulties, but at least the casting discussions must have been short. After all, Crispin Glover once released a reworked 19th-century handbook called Rat-Catching, and he dedicated part of his 1989 CD to the subject. More importantly, he's one of the few actors who might be more comfortable with rodent co-stars than with human ones. Glover throws himself into the part he was born to play in the latest from Glen Morgan and James Wong, the former X-Files staffers also responsible for Final Destination and The One. Though the new Willard turns out to be yet another close-but-not-quite effort from the talented team, anyone who feels that the sight of Glover maniacally instructing a herd of rats to "Tear! Tear!" is reason enough to show up won't be disappointed. (Everyone else probably knows well enough to stay away.) Sharing a Bates-like manor with his aged, hectoring mother, Glover sulks through his daily routine. Wearing a hooded expression and one of his dead father's suits, he shows up every day for work at the manufacturing business his family once owned, where he receives the ritual abuse of new owner R. Lee Ermey, who barks orders beneath a to-the-point motivational plaque reading "Prudent Aggression." It could have been placed there solely to mock Glover, a man who has imprudently bottled his aggression away. But the cork inevitably pops off that bottle as Glover strikes up an unusual friendship with the colony of rats nesting in his basement. Soon, he's sharing a bed with a kindly rat named Socrates, while gingerly avoiding an aggressive one named Ben, who seems more in touch with Glover's dark impulses than Glover does himself. With the possible exception of his heir apparent, Jeremy Davies, only Glover could make this good-angel/bad-angel relationship almost natural, and Willard is best when it exploits the dark comedy of the situation, leaving Glover to carry on heated discussions with co-stars who can do little but return his beady-eyed glare. Willard has such a game lead that it's too bad the film didn't simply go all the way, instead of pulling back from the lunatic fringe to more formulaic horror territory–particularly in its final act, which serves out pathos and buckets of rats in equal portions. It only takes rat trainers and CGI artists to create swarms of vermin, but it takes a twisted kind of genius to treat them as equals.

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