Willard (2003) Review: Crispin Glover Commits Rat-Themed Crimes in This Underrated Thriller


Crispin Glover as Willard (accompanied by Socrates the rat) (2003)

Cassie Stremkowski, Editor/Reviewer

“Look, if I had an army of rats that obeyed my every command, I would probably do the same.”

-Me, absolutely dumbfounded at this movie




Willard is a 2003 horror/thriller movie written and directed by Glen Morgan (also known for his work on the X-Files), and produced by James Wong (also known for his work on the X-Files). It stars quintessential creepy man Crispin Glover in the eponymous role of Willard Stiles, a man who, at the big age of 32, still consistently gets bullied by his boss at work, and his elderly, half-dead mother. Off topic, but every single movie that I have seen that stars Crispin Glover, he gets absolutely BERATED at his workplace. Is this typecasting? Does Crispin Glover just look like a guy who would get bullied by his coworkers? Anyhow, Willard is a pretty miserable guy, and in an attempt to escape the monotony and patheticness of his life, he begins to befriend the colony of rats that live in his basement.

Willard takes a special liking to one rat, which he names Socrates because he’s just so dang smart (in my opinion, the rat wasn’t even that smart since it got stuck in a glue trap but that’s besides the point). Willard trains the rats to pop the tires of his abusive boss’ car, which begins his unusually quick downward spiral into rat themed crimes.

There’s this one scene that makes me laugh where Willard is at work the day after he pops his boss’ tires and his boss comes in and is like “MY TIRES GOT POPPED AUUGHHH” and Willard is sitting at his desk in the back with the WORST poker face EVER. If anyone had decided to look at him at that moment, they wouldn’t be wondering who popped the boss’ tires anymore. But of course since this is his movie, Willard gets away with it.

There is another conflict in this story, that comes in the form of Ben. Ben is a Gambian Pouched Rat, native to Africa (this movie takes place in Brooklyn). Ben is a HUGE rat. I mean even by New York standards this guy is MASSIVE. I have to give major props to the cameramen on this movie for their ability to make a rat look so devious. Ben doesn’t obey Willard and Willard (a grown man) is beefing with a rat this entire movie.

A Gambian Pouched Rat on a leash. Photograph by Poskan Komentar.

So, recap at this point. Willard has a sucky life, he’s friends with rats, he really loves one particular rat named Socrates, he really hates this one huge rat named Ben, and he’s beginning to use the rats to commit petty crimes for him against the person who has wronged him. At this point in the movie, Willard is realizing his mom is literally dying, yet for some reason, he’s shocked when she dies. She dies in the night, and of course, Willard blames her death on Ben, because why wouldn’t he. Willard realizes he’s completely alone now, and is being pressured to sell his family home to his boss, which he vehemently defends, as he has too much attachment to the house. 

Eventually, with everything piling up on top of him the ice finally breaks. One day, while at work (with Socrates, again, why wouldn’t he do that), his boss fires Willard and discovers Socrates. His boss, because he wasn’t unlikeable enough, KILLS SOCRATES. At this point you can’t help but feel a bit bad for Willard, as his only friend is dead at the hands of the man who has caused him the most misery.

The climax of the movie results in, as you can probably guess, Willard using Ben and his army of rats to kill his boss. I won’t get into the details, if you’re going to watch any part of this movie, let it be this part, as the visual of thousands of rats pouring out of an elevator with Crispin Glover right in the middle of it all is surprisingly very cinematic.

I’m not going to talk about the VERY end, as it’s kind of a lot to process and would probably be best experienced if watched. Overall, because of its sheer audacity to be so strange and it’s weird offbeat humor (seeing Crispin Glover yell at a rat for an hour and a half is peak cinema), Willard ranks among one of my personal favorite movies, which is why I picked it to kick off my weekly movie reviews. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but what movie is? (Psycho is, but that’s for another time).


Willard (2003) gets 5 devious large rats out of 5 from me.