I love Crispin Glover. So as soon as I heard that there was going to be a remake of the cult 1971 B-movie Willard, and that Glover would play the title role, I knew I'd be there. My field report: fellow Glover fans are in for a treat. Our hero delivers a full-throttle performance, uncontrollable screaming and all, as the put-upon mama's boy who befriends the rats in the cellar of his decaying house, eventually getting them to obey his increasingly violent commands.
With obvious nods to both the original film and to Psycho, this Willard is witty, spooky, slightly campy, and wholly entertaining. Writer/director Morgan, one of the driving forces behind The X-Files, directs with relative restraint. Willard's Addams Family-like house and the tons of rats (real rodents, puppets, and CGI co-existing seamlessly), not to mention Glover's over-the-top yet surprisingly touching performance, provide all the flash the movie needs. Morgan's visual tricks are mostly seen only in the details: the portrait of Willard's late father is of Bruce Davison, who starred in the 1971 original; a can of nuts that Willard feeds his rats from is labeled "Numm Nuts"; etc.
Shirley Walker's bouncy, Danny Elfman-like score is fun if a bit too big, and the supporting cast (Laura Elena Harring from Mulholland Drive as Willard's sympathetic coworker and R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket as their hateful boss) are perfect fits. The ending looks like it was reshot after audience testing, and as a result it feels out of place, but it's a minor quibble. Glover is the main reason to see this film, and I have a feeling that, while not a box office success, Willard's run on video will indoctrinate new converts into the Cult of Crispin. This isn't acting, it's performance art. Thanks for not letting us down, Crispin.