Ermey's Martin, decked out in gaudy jewelry and cheap suits, berates Willard until the Bartleby-esque file clerk turns to his little friends: a pack of rodents he nurtures in the basement of his decaying house.
Glover, photographed by director Glen Morgan in a series of extreme close-ups that emphasize the actor's angular, bony face, is a sympathetic Willard; his panicked grief gives the movie a kick. Watching the actor caress his favorite white rat, which he names Socrates, should be enough creepy fun for one movie.
But “Willard” also has a rapid-fire, Ermey performance that nearly burns up the screen. The actor, a former drill sergeant, barks abuse at Glover's Willard, deriding him as a “puke” in one ripe moment, and delivers the coup de grace that brings on the climax.
The movie's old-dark-house setting, complete with a walking-corpse-mother that Willard must nurse, provides a wonderfully seedy setting for much of the action in an admittedly narrow plot.
In many ways, “Willard” follows “Psycho,” with its Oedipal strangeness, moody introverted hero (fascinated with stuffed birds/rats) and descent into madness. Yet Hitchcock's thriller was never this fun.
Glen Morgan's heightened direction gives the movie a “City of Lost Children” feel; Morgan even uses the same color palette of musty browns and coffee-stain yellows.
Morgan's script closely follows Gilbert Ralston's script from the 1971 version, which spawned the sequel “Ben,” released a year later. Glover, in his cheerfully weird style, sings Michael Jackson's title song from that movie behind the end credits. Starring Crispin Glover, R Lee Ermey and Laura Elena Harring. Directed and written by Glen Morgan. Produced by James Wong and Morgan. A New Line release. Horror. Rated PG-13 for terror/violence, some sexual content and language. Running time: 100 min