Director – Daniel Mann (Journey Into Fear, The Revengers)
Starring – Bruce Davison (X-Men, The Lords of Salem), Sondra Locke (Tales of the Unexpected, Death Game), Ernest Borgnine (Escape from New York, Deadly Blessings)
Release Date – 1971
Rating – 3/5
Blu Release – 3/5
I’ve heard of a lot of movies that I needed to check out when I first started getting into horror. Most told me to check out the more common horror films like the Universal monster film and Hammer Horror flicks. These were already films I was very accustomed in. Others made me take a more obscure route with films like Frankenhooker, Basket Case, Neon Maniacs, and so on. While others in different horror groups were recommending the same movies over and over again I did have a few people offer up things that were different.
One of the films was Willard. Around this time there was a remake in the works starring Crispin Glover. I had always wanted to see it but never had the opportunity to do so. That changed recently when Scream Factory released Willard and the sequel Ben on blu. I reached out to them and they were kind enough to send review copies my way.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows Willard (Davison) who finds himself as everyone’s punching bag. The company his father created was taken away from his family and the boss treats him like shit. His mother is terminally ill and continues to belittle him. The only friends he has is two rats, Ben and Socrates. He secretly takes them with him everywhere he goes but his adoption of them has created a problem when more and more rats pour into his basement seeking sanctuary. When he takes them to work one evening, his boss finds them and kills Socrates. Ben becomes infuriated and Willard is tore up over the ordeal. He then gets his rat army, lead by Ben, to take those that wronged him but once he tries to stop Ben turns on Willard and kills him.**Spoiler Alert**
I’ve always enjoyed the “when nature attacks” horror films of the 70s so it only made sense that I had wanted to watch the movie that started it all. I knew I would enjoy Willard but I was always curious to see how it played it. I knew it wouldn’t be something that changed the way I saw horror but deep down I knew it would entertain.
The acting in this one doesn’t really sell me on the cast. I loved Ernest Borgnine and his crude character. He is an asshole boss that we have all had before. Sadly, I just wasn’t feeling Bruce Davison as Willard. He’s an amazing actor but he just doesn’t feel helpless and lost like you expect Willard to be.
The story for this one is extremely fun but does take a very long time to feel like a horror movie especially when you consider the wonky music that plays throughout the film. The film feels like a depressing drama until the last 30 minutes or so before we get anything remotely considered horror. It is still an effective story but should not be billed as horror. It is a slower burner that makes very good use of it’s time with character development and backstory. Aside from the lack of horror elements I still rather enjoyed the story.
Finally, the film does have a few on screen kills. They are entertaining and cheesy but not very memorable. The rats “attacking” people is literally the rodents walking across their bodies with random blood spots applied. What makes these so damn entertaining is watching the actors scream like they are really in pain. Overall, Willard is a fun late night movie that I’m sure was a blast at the drive-in. Not as effective now as it once was but it is still a fun film. Check it out.