Willard

In many ways, the cat and I are polar opposites: she's skinny and I'm fat, she's dumb and I'm smart, I'm active during the day and she's active during the night. The only reason why she doesn't say hello when I say goodbye is because she can't talk. But of all the differences, the number one might be that I'm super into movies and she just could not give less of a shit.

I wanted to test the limits of her apathy, so I got a copy of Willard, the 2003 movie about a man who starts having psychic conversations with the rats and mice in his basement. There's more stuff to interest a cat in Willard than anything I've ever watched in my room: lots of squeaking, lots of frenetic movement on the screen, and even a lot of meowing. (The rat pack devours a cat that a well meaning co-worker gives Willard to comfort him after his mom dies.) But even when I pointed her head at the screen she didn't seem to understand why she would care. She had absolutely no problems ignoring one of her brothers cry for help as they were  consumed whole, which makes me think that she's probably not going to be of much help if something ever happens to me.

Which is a shame, really, because if she had watched she would have caught a surprisingly solid horror film. Crispin Glover stars as the titular Willard, and he imbues the role with a lot more sincerity than you would expect given how many of his scenes are just him giving heated monologues to rodents. The middle of the movie is devoted to a battle for Willard's soul: on the one side is a good mouse he's named Socrates who wants Willard to keep being a sweet harmless man, and then on the other side there's a bad rat named Ben who wants him to kill, kill, kill. The idea of being psychically controlled by pocket sized mammals is pretty over the top, but Glover seems legitimately troubled by these problems, which keeps the movie from becoming too campy.

Which is not to say that the movie around Glover isn't campy: the rest of the plot is pretty silly, since Willard is harassed by a mother that's straight out of Psycho and he's constantly harangued by a boss who is a bastard to a cartoonish degree. You would think that a fully grown man who was always weird would have reached some sort of stasis by their early thirties, but nope - nobody in the movie wants to give poor Willard any breathing room. Of course, having so many rotten people around him gives him plenty of targets for rat attacks, and wouldn't you know it, both of those foils eventually come face to face with Willard's bag full of murderous beasts.

When you combine those two tones - the legitimate inner torment plus the over the top exterior torments - you get a film that's got enough weight for you to invest in but which is still going to deliver the b-movie thrills you'd want from a movie about a nutjob who takes orders from an amoral rodent. (I should also point out that Ben does a good job in this movie, too; every time they cut to a shot of him chiding Willard for his lack of backbone he looks legitimately displeased and possibly possessed. Although I do have to say that I think it is a bit racist that the angel over Willard's shoulder was a white mouse and the devil was a brown rat, but when the rat's that good in his role you kind of have to give to them that they did a good job with casting.)

Did any of this matter to the cat? Not at all. She had no interest in the surface level pleasures of this movie, much less any of the deeper facets. If she wasn't going to care about the mere presence of Ben, she wasn't going to care about the terrible things Ben was doing to Willard's heart and soul. She didn't even sleep through the whole thing - there was a big chunk where she was just staring at my bookcase for no reason and debating about whether or not to go to sleep. Sometimes I just don't even know how we make such good roommates when we're such an odd couple.

Winner: Me

Willard on IMDB