Willard is a social misfit, who is made fun of by everyone and his faher's business is stolen by his boss. Willard befriends rats he found outside of home. when one of his rats is killed at work by his boss, he uses his rats to enact revenge.
I love this film! Crispin Glover, as Willard Stiles, is absolutely riveting in his role as the meek, lonely young man who later turns into a vengeful, blood-thirsty killer. His role here reminds me of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho but a bit more animated. The whole time I saw Willard's boss, Frank Martin, picking away and picking away at him, I wanted to stand up to Frank and beat the crap out of him. Willard just takes it and turns the other cheek for the first half of the film. But then, after the rats join him, he gets angry and fights back. He doesn't just get angry, he completely SNAPS, right off his rocker!! It's fantastic! I often wish I had an army of rats. I've a long list of victims lined up! Muhaha!
This is a remake of the 1971 film of the same title. While the original is good, this rendition is several times better. Crispin is more adept in this role than Bruce Davison. And the effects, for the most part, are great in comparison.
The story of revenge is easy to follow so we can focus on the characters and action. The revenge is simple yet highly motivational; having to kiss up to a man who stole your father's business would drive me crazy! Now, the story up to this point has been done before countless times with different variations. ENTER THE RATS! Rats are one of the smartest of mammals, able to learn complicated tasks. So they're a great choice here. It begins with one white rat, Socrates, a fitting name. At first, Willard wants to kill Socrates because it's a common misconception that are dirty, disease-infested creatures and his elderly, invalid mother complains of noises in the wall. But, after he catches the rat on sticky paper, he can't bring himself to kill him and he releases him with lubricant.
Willard keeps the rat as a pet. He sees that he's highly intelligent and gives him the name, Socrates. Socrates soon brings more rats because he's their leader. Before long, there's hundreds of rats and Willard trains them to TEAR IT UP! on newspaper and other things. After a while, a bigger darker-colored rat catches Willard's attention. Ben likes him and tries to please him by doing the most and wanting to lead the rats. However, Willard's heart is with Socrates. It's great how we see the rats with human emotion here. Most animal horror doesn't show us much more than just mindless killers - not so with Willard! This is one of the many reasons I love this one.
Between Willard and the rats, we see substantial character development. The other characters are good but not developed very much since the focus is on Willard and the rats. Veteran actress Jackie Burroughs, as Henrietta Stiles, is perfect here as the quintessential, senile and elderly mother of Willard. With R. Lee Ermey, as Frank Martin, you can't ask for a better boss to despise! He' great at getting us to hate him. The rest of the cast has smaller roles - good but nothing special. Overall, it's a great cast.
The SFX is mostly real rats but CGI is used as well. Most of it isn't overdone and looks real. But a few scenes where thousands of rats surge around Willard, is a little over-the-top. There's a little gore but nothing memorable.
Overall, this is one of my favorite modern thriller/horror flicks. It's not your average remake which turns out crappy. In fact, it's netter than the original in many ways. I believe most of what is better is due to Crispin Glover. He's definitely a great actor for every role he does. Also, this isn't a scare-fest but creepy in its own way. A must see for horror fans! If you don't like rats, stay away from this one!
The DVD extras are great:
Making-of documentary (very long)
Rat documentary (fun but I skimmed through it)
Music video (it's about Ben the rat, written by Crispin Glover!)
TV spots; trailer
Willard: [shouts] If I have no choice, why did you even come here?!! Why did you even bother telling me?!! Do you get off on telling people that they have no control over their lives?!! That I have no money, no home, and it's not even my fault!!!