Concession Confession: It’s sort of weird seeing a successful 1970s horror flick and how it is sort of due to competent production and a perplexing premise. While stripped of all the bells and whistles of modern cinema you can certainly get engaged in the down trodden character and the intrigue of a bizarre character study.
Logline: A meek and meager Willard Stiles is a social misfit who begins spending less time with his nagging ill mother and demanding boss but rather a pack of rats he begins to train and befriend.
I actually had a good time and respect Willard. They really don’t make them like this anymore, this being sort of a TV movie quality of something that is just a Ludacris in how costly it is for the premise. Just the absurd amount of rats that had to be handled on set….that’s impressive. There’s not a lot of market value to the concept, like a man plays with rats in the yard…not the recipe for a blockbuster. Still, it is a strange character study that keeps you wonder where it is going.
Willard is scarily relatable and the movie does an excellent job of presenting Willard as an unlikely protagonist. Throughout the story, I just felt the anxiety and fatigue that it takes to be Willard. His life sucks, he’s constantly nagged and working for the most abhorrent toxic people. Even the fact that Willard works for Mermaid Man doesn’t soften that this conniving asshole who stole his father’s company is continuing to greed over his inheritance.
If I was a lesser reviewer I would say that this movie is really Joker but with Rats, but I’m instead going to call it Little Pet Shop of Horrors, without fun musical numbers. Willard is just a stressed out, and it is that fatigue of his terrible life that Willard achieves the villain origin story that most films now a days fail at. Willard’s struggles and emotions are glimmers of his humanity and it is his escape from reality he gets from these rats that makes it an intriguing journey. It is alluring to follow him on his escalating journey towards madness and revenge. I’d argue that just like Seymour, our character still has tows the line between redeemable and dissociating with the horrors to a degree too far gone.
Willard can be an absurd concept to shallow but at the end of the day, it is a movie. The film is presented with wipe transitions, and editing that presents it that it is a piece of entertainment above all else. While the shock and awe of the close-up pests are accentuated beautifully even if the production is outdated; the film holds up and surpasses it’s Crispin Glover reboot and cheap imitators. Willard keeps it simple and straight to the point and that philosophy serves the film for better and worst. It can be a bit bone dry, but the stark composition ultimately gives it a tail up.