Thursday, February 28, 2019

WILLARD (2003) Blu-ray review

Willard (2003) d. Glen Morgan (USA) (100 min)

Trapped in a dead-end job (his father’s former business stolen away by his boss, played with tyrannical glee by R. Lee Ermey) with no friends and no future, Willard’s (Crispin Glover) life seems hopeless until he discovers a horde of rats dwelling in the basement of his ailing mother’s cavernous house. The social misfit finds his tribe amongst the furry rodents, and soon is plotting wreak vengeance on all those who have made his life a living hell.

Fresh from the success of Final Destination in 2000 (which he co-scripted with producer James Wong), Morgan was given a shot at the director’s chair with his updating of the 1971 cult favorite starring Bruce Davison. Based on Gilbert Ralston’s screenplay (and that film’s source material, Ratman’s Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert), Morgan follows much of the same plot points, but the atmosphere is rather one of barely contained hysteria from first to last, a feature-length cartoon with live-wire Glover our pied piper to the funny farm. Veteran composer and music supervisor Shirley Walker’s bouncy musical score has a Danny Elfman essence – not surprising considering she has conducted and orchestrated many of the prolific musician’s soundtracks – which only adds to the cheeky, heightened quality.

As such, it’s challenging to cultivate any sense of build or dramatic tension since everything feels pitched to the rafters, though Glover and Ermey do their darndest to shriek and bellow their way through the ceiling (and occasionally succeed). Porn superstar Ashlyn Gere (as Kimberly Patton) has an amusing role as Ms. Leach, the office’s resident suffering sycophant, and Jackie Burroughs (who played Christopher Walken’s ailing mom in The Dead Zone 20 years prior) plays Willard’s ailing mom.

The closest thing to a sympathetic character is Laura Elena Haring’s squeaky-clean office drone, the only person who extends a kind word or ear to our troubled antihero, but she remains a two-dimensional plot device as opposed to the genuinely caring and kind individual that Sondra Locke presented.

All that said, there are pleasures to be had in watching Glover interact with the teeming rodent hordes (even if some of them are obviously CGI), and while the studio (and those accursed test audiences) stripped much of the meat from the bones when the “R” rated feature was toned down to achieve a PG-13 rating, fans of “animal attack” movies should have a good time listening to their favorite twitchy actor urging his four-legged friends to “tear it up.”

Shout! Factory has lavished an impressive amount of attention on their new Blu-ray release, with multiple audio commentaries, extended interviews, a feature-length making-of documentary, and a music video of Glover doing Michael Jackson’s “Ben” (which also comes with a jam-packed speed-talking audio commentary of its own).


NEW 2K scan of the original film elements

NEW Audio Commentary with Justin Beahm, writer/director Glen Morgan, and director of photography Robert McLachlan

NEW Audio Commentary with Justin Beahm and animal trainers Mark Harden and David Allsberry of Animals For Hollywood

Audio Commentary with writer/director Glen Morgan, producer James Wong, and actors Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermey

NEW “The Road To Willard” – Interview with writer/director Glen Morgan (80 min!)

NEW “Destination Willard” – Interview with director of photography Robert McLachlan (46 min!)

NEW “The Rat Trainer’s Notebook” – Behind-The-Scenes Footage from Boone’s Animals For Hollywood (11 min)

The Year Of The Rat – A Documentary on The Making of Willard (73 min!)

Rat People: Friends Or Foes? – A Real Rat Documentary (19 min)

Deleted/Alternate Scenes with Optional Commentary (26 min)

Music Video “Ben” by Crispin Hellion Glover with Optional Commentary (3 min)

Behind-The-Scenes Footage and Interviews from The Electronic Press Kit (30 min)

Theatrical Trailer

TV Spots

NOTE: Unfortunately, R. Lee Ermey was clearly not in the same room at the same time as the rest of the crew during the recording of his audio commentary track and, as such, is only afforded a few sound bytes dropped in from time to time.

Willard is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:

Trivia: Mulholland Dr. co-stars Laura Elena Haring and Naomi Watts both followed up that film’s success with horror efforts: Haring did Willard while Watts headlined the smash hit The Ring (2002) (the remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu).


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