Blu-ray Review: Willard



Do you remember the first time you asked your mother to see a movie and she said, “No!” Not a “no” like the family has plans and there’s no time to take you to the theater for a matinee. But a “NO!” as in there’s no way she will ever give you permission, a ride or money to ever see that film. Way back when, a local theater was showing the original Willard and a friend was going. So I asked if it would be fine to go along with him. “What’s the movie about?” my mother asked. “A boy who makes friends with a bunch of rats.” “No!” Mom was not a big fan of rats. She’s still not a fan of rats. Her response made me really want to see Willard, eventually when I saw it, the movie felt special to me. So special that I was horrified when the new broke that Hollywood had to remake it in 2003. But then word leaked out that the new Willard was Crispin Hellion Glover. At that point I wanted to see it again, but I wasn’t going to call mom for her permission.

Willard Stiles (Back to the Future‘s Crispin Glover) is stuck in a bad place. He works at the company his father founded except now it belongs to Frank Martin (Full Metal Jacket‘s R. Lee Ermey). Willard’s not going to take over the company. The only reason Frank has him on staff is a promise to the kid’s dad. Going home isn’t fun either since Willard’s mom Henrietta (The Dead Zone‘s Jackie Burroughs) is overbearing. The family house is a mansion that is completely falling apart and full of rats in the basement. Nothing is going right for him until he forms a strange bond with a rat he names Socrates. But Willard’s bond goes deeper than just one rat as he gets control over hundreds. While Socrates is a nice rat, there’s also Ben who appeals to Willard to unleash them on his enemies. Can Willard get his life straightened out with his rat pals?

The remake of Willard works because of Glover, Ermey and the rats coming through in their performances. If any of them hadn’t delivered, this would just be an exercise in just keeping a brand alive and making a little profit. But they push things harder than the original. Willard comes off as a demented fairytale as if Cinderella hadn’t solved her problems by having her mice friends chew the flesh off her evil stepmother and stepsisters. As much as I love the original with Bruce Davison, Ernest Borgnine and Elsa Lanchester, the remake is also memorable with a different feel while sticking to the same story. The rats come off a bit better in the remake since they can use quite a bit of movie magic now to make them more intimidating and swarming. If you got scared by the rat action in the original, you’re going to be watching the remake with three cats on your lap. If I called up mom and asked her if she’d buy me Crispin Glover’s Willard on Blu-ray for Christmas, she’d be quick with same “No!”

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 2K scan brings out the shadows where the rats lurk. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1. The surround sound will let you hear the rat squeaks and their nails clip on the wood. You might want to watch with the lights up. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentaries with Writer/Director Glen Morgan And Director Of Photography Robert McLachlan lets the two men talk about how they framed the action in the film.

Audio Commentary With Animal Trainers Mark Harden And David Allsberry of Animals For Hollywood lets them explain how they got the rats and the cat to perform in scenes. Rats don’t direct themselves otherwise they would have won an Oscar by now.

The Road To Willard (79:43) is an interview with writer/director Glen Morgan. He goes deep into his career, his work on X-Files and why he decided to direct a lot of rats.

Destination Willard (45:53) is an interview With director of photography Robert McLachlan. He talks about the influence of his father who was big into making 8mm home movies. He shot Final Destination. He’s lately been doing major TV shows including Game of Thrones, Westworld and Ray Donovan. He goes into the team element of being a cinematographer since he relies on a lot of people to make things look right on the screen. This is a great talk if you are curious about being a working cinematographer.

The Rat Trainer’s Notebook (11:18) is the Behind-The-Scenes Footage of the rats from Animals For Hollywood.

Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Glen Morgan, Producer James Wong, Actors Crispin Glover And R. Lee Ermey is from the original DVD release. This is great to hear since Ermey passed away last April.

The Year Of The Rat (73:13) is a Documentary On The Making Of Willard that gets extra tight on the production. Everythign gets covered in this fascinating view. Who knew they made a tire out of licorice so the rats could eat away. It’s fun to see Robert McLachlan and Glen Morgan in their earlier days.

Rat People: Friends Or Foes? (18:41) is A Real Rat Documentary. The films focuses on people who have rats for pets which a health expert explains isn’t the same rats that destroy homes.

Deleted/Alternate Scenes (25:57) includes an optional commentary to know why the filmmakers didn’t use the footage.

Music Video Ben By Crispin Hellion Glover (3:00) with Optional Commentary is hilarious. It seems like a dream sequence from the movie. I prefer this to the Michael Jackson original. The commentary from Glover has him speaking fast to make sure he can tell it all in three minutes. Glover directed the video.

Behind-The-Scenes Footage And Interviews From The Electronic Media Kit (29:45) is the elements they’d give entertainment shows to make it look like they were on the set.

Theatrical Trailer (2:03) lets us know there’s a new Willard in the rat trap.

TV Spots (3:46) talks of the new master for the rats.

Scream Factory presents Willard. Directed by Glen Morgan. Screenplay by: Glen Morgan. Starring: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring and Jackie Burroughs. Rated: PG-13. Running Time: 100 minutes. Released: February 26, 2019.

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