Willard (1971)

WILLARD (1971)
Article 2616 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-4-2008
Posting Date: 10-11-2008
Directed by Daniel Mann
Featuring Bruce Davison, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Borgnine
Country: USA

A mousy young man, dominated by his mother and bullied by his boss, only finds respite in the friendship he develops with some rats. As the situations in his life worsen, he discovers that he can use the rats to get what he wants.

I remember this movie making the rounds when I was a kid, and though I never had a chance to see it, it was quite a sensation by word-of-mouth. This marks the first time I’ve actually had a chance to see the whole thing. It’s no classic, but I did find it quite satisfying. Its biggest problem may be that you know where it’s going long before it gets there, largely due to the fact that it was made quite clear at the outset that the movie was horror; horror fans may be a bit disappointed by the wait. For most of its running time, it doesn’t really feel like a horror movie, and rather than having Willard sic his rats and everybody and anybody from square one, we have a long buildup where he develops his relationships with his relatives, his associates and the rats, and only step by step escalating the use he makes of his furry friends. I think the buildup works quite well, and the big payoff comes when Willard has his final confrontation with his boss. Good performances from Bruce Davison and Ernest Borgnine help a lot; unfortunately, Elsa Lanchester’s character departs too early from the proceedings. At any rate, it’s much better than the saccharine sequel BEN, and it definitely gets extra points for having no rat puppets. Reportedly, the recent remake isn’t too bad either, though I’ve heard this is largely due to a good performance by Crispin Glover.

 

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