Crispin Glover, R.Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Seriously, how often can one look at a film role and think "Wow, that's perfect for Glover." With his gothic appearance, menacing stare and intimidating presence Glover is, inevitably, limited in the roles he's going to be offered. Sure, he could possibly find himself going for appearance after appearance as "the bad guy," but even that's limited because of that ever-present slight grin that Glover seems to wear. Hollywood can't dismiss him because he's simply too good an actor, but they've had the hardest time figuring out what to do with him.
"Willard" is the perfect film for Crispin Glover.
This darkly comic remake of the 1971 cult classic is a touch darker and a touch funnier than the original while absolutely capitalizing on all the quirks, foibles and talents of its leading man, Crispin Glover. Glover plays Willard, who develops a special, telepathic relationship with rats in his mother's older home and leads them down a sociopathic trail of revenge for the wrongs, humiliations and injustices he has suffered.
Glover is almost gleeful in the film in the best role he's had since the disturbing "River's Edge." He's a perfect blend of menacing, disturbed, and yet oddly endearing so that when a co-worker (Laura Elena Harring) worries about him and shows up at the house it's not a complete surprise that someone would actually care about him.
As his ill-fated boss, R. Lee Ermey brings his drill sergeant routine to the corporate world playing the boss from hell who torments, teases and humiliates Willard one too many times. It's a chilling performance not easily forgotten.
"Willard" works in building suspense, but fails in providing a pay-off to the suspense. Scenes that were, in the original, quite horrifying never become more than anxiety inducing here. The rats are clearly the centerpiece of this film, but they never really become menacing or threatening...they constantly feel like trained rats doing as instructed.
"Willard" is part remake and part sequel. This lack of clarity also hurts the film, especially for fans of the original film. This film indicates that Willard is actually the son of the original's central character, but the family tree and employment situation then becomes fuzzy because of the various ways it would have had to play out for all this to happen. Confused? So was I.
I rate "Willard" highly almost exclusively for Crispin Glover's brilliant, memorable performance. As a longtime Glover fan, I shrieked with delight when I found out that Glover would be in this film. I only wish I had shrieked with horror a few more times during the film.
A special tip for viewers...be sure to have the volume turned up during the closing credits. Glover himself sings the former Michael Jackson hit "Ben," adding an eerie, emo feel to it that brought back my days in the live cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic