Making the Grades
"Willard there are rats in the basement!"
Willard's mom (Jackie Burroughs) isn't the type to let things slip by. Even while confined to her upper floor bedroom, the inconceivably ancient woman must have acute hearing to know the little critters were down there.
Her son Willard Stiles (Crispin Glover) still shares her huge old Victorian home and is expected to dote over her every need. In their relationship the term "apron strings" might better be substituted with "iron shackles."
Essentially a psychological misfit, Willard has employment only because he works for his late father's company. However Mr. Martin (R. Lee Ermey), the remaining owner of the corporation, is counting the days until Mrs. Stiles' death will free him from the obligation to keep junior on the payroll. Meanwhile he makes life as miserable as possible in hopes that the young man will simply resign.
But Willard's quiet acceptance of his boss's abuse covers a truly sinister nature. During his frequent visits to the basement, he has formed a strange bond with the scurrying occupants, beginning with a white rat that he names Socrates. Amongst the growing population he also discovers a large ringleader whom he calls Ben (and yes, Michael Jackson does reprise his 1970's hit song featured in the original movie series). With an ability to speak ratanese that would make Dr. Doolittle jealous, Willard trains a rodent task force capable of attacking at his command, with the first target being the tires on Mr. Martin's new car.
The creators of this Willard are counting on audiences being spooked by the sight of hundreds of computer generated beady-eyed creatures swarming over the floors -- and eventually a few select humans and a house cat. But instead, viewers may be simply repulsed by sights like that of a dead elderly woman slumped over the top of the stairs while rats nibble on her fungus-infected toes.
This remake offers high artistic skills in set design, but delves into a study of degeneracy rather than settling for merely being a horror movie. While the violence isn't explicit or bloody (with the exception of a beaten rat), it's Willard's revengeful intentions toward his stereotypical boss and mother as much as his actions that will have many parents opting to avoid this rattrap.