As we celebrate the release of Horrible Bosses with this week’s theme, it behooves us to look at a weirdie about an incensed working stiff getting revenge on "the man" in a fashion far meaner than any comeuppance likely to be seen in the Sudeikis/Day/Bateman joint. To be sure, payback really doesn’t run much nastier than feeding your boss to an army of too-smart, too-hungry rats.
Willard was an odd choice for a remake in 2003. The ’71 original was a black comedy that starred Bruce Davison as the titular character, a mama’s boy whose only friends are rodents. When his cranky boss (played by Ernest Borgnine) pushes him too far, he uses his supernaturally-smart rat pals, Ben and Socrates, to marshal a verminous army to execute his wrath on the jerk. This remake follows the thrust of all that, more or less - - replacing Davison and Borgnine with Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermey, of course - - but it oddly chooses to ratchet it up as a suspense thriller.
See what you can make of this trailer...
Aside from the coy use of “A Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” the trailer doesn’t especially scream “black comedy,” does it?
There’s honestly not much more to discuss. You can predict everything off the set-up. Does Willard get hideous revenge on his mean old boss? Oh yes. Does he develop a tentative romance with a sweet, sympathetic co-worker (Laura Harring) who’s ultimately repulsed by his darker tendencies? You bet. Does he ultimately end up in a mental hospital where he makes a cryptic button line suggesting he may continue his bad ways? Of course! If this is a black comedy, then it’s a morbid one-note joke that likely would’ve been better suited as a shorter episode of Tales from the Crypt.
There truly isn’t much in the way of complication with the plot. Willard’s a creep who becomes king of the rats. That’s it. It's not especially weird, but it absolutely deserves to be spotlighted in this column by the sheer virtue of it being a catalyst for the music video below. Crispin Glover covers the eponymous, sentimental theme song Michael Jackson sang for the original Willard’s sequel, Ben, in a clip that includes women writhing suggestively in rats and a cameo from Hitler for some inexplicable reason.
Yeah, there's something on the opposite end of the parabola of tie-in vida that Linkin Park’s Transformers songs are on. Funny thing is, “Ben” isn’t even Glover’s strangest music video. Not by a long shot.
You know, we might as well make this about Glover, himself, because the man’s whole career is one long invitation to the weird. See, odds are, you know him as George McFly from Back to the Future and I’ve always found it amusing that he’d be best-known for such a perennial crowd pleaser. He’s a self-described eccentric who’s struck me as having an odd bemusement with the mainstream until a real taste of that kind of success got him uncomfortable enough to rebel against it. Maybe that’s an excess of conjecture, there, but I can’t think of a better explanation for why the guy would choose to act in this particular manner while guesting on Letterman…
Seems like he’s on a bad trip, doesn’t it? Turns out, he was actually showing up as a character he was playing in the still-to-be-released indy flick, Rubin & Ed (and this was more than 20 years before Joaquin Phoenix’s own prank.) It’s actually hard to say which is the less… acceptable explanation, isn’t it? Oddly enough, as quirky as Willard might be, on other late nite shows, he’s described it and his roles in big movies like Charlie’s Angels as means to the end of him getting enough cash to make his really peculiar, personal projects like It is Fine. Everything is Fine!, a “murder mystery of the week” that stars a cerebral palsy victim. So go figure.
Check out some previous "Weirdies" below...
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Videodrome
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Holy Mountain
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Bubba Ho-Tep
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Santa Claus
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Moonwalker
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Meet the Feebles
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Being John Malkovich
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Death Race 2000
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: A Scanner Darkly
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Buckaroo Banzai
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Twelve Monkeys
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Dark City
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Yellow Submarine
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Shadow of the Vampire
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Return to Oz
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Koyaanisqatsi
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Erik the Viking
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Altered States
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Repo Man
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Peanut Butter Solution
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Toxic Avenger
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Begotten
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Fantastic Planet
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Plague Dogs
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Nam's Angels/the Losers