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Why ‘Willard’ (2003) Is a Creepy Allegory About Classism

“Willard! There are rats in the basement!” His mother calls out from offscreen, setting the premise for a creepy allegory about classism. His old, emotionally abusive mother is too senile to suppress her contempt for the lower class even as she goes on to die penniless, her riches lost to materialism. She’s mortgaged the extravagant home she can no longer afford after her husband passes, and it’s years before her own son will learn it’s he who will pay the debt.

Willard (2003), with Crispin Glover in the title role, is the most recent movie based on the 1968 novella, Ratman’s Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert. Twenty years later, we can still watch it at face value as the nightmarish tale of a man who commands rats to kill people, but it’s so much more. Willard is a man, backed against the wall, who shows us that doing whatever it takes to get a fair shake is the cause of his own demise.

The 2003 version borrows its inspiration from the original 1971 version, but writer/director Glen Morgan and writer Gilbert Ralston paid attention to some of the initial fiction. While some details omitted from the first version made it into the 2003 release, one thing stood out. The unnamed protagonist from the novella, known only as Ratman, wore a Chuck E. Cheese-style rat mask during his shenanigans. When you have Crispin Glover in the title role, though, you already have the creepiest mascot possible. Masking the anti-hero might even confuse the audience into thinking Willard has a true affinity with his little friends. He doesn’t. He uses them at his convenience.

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We toil away at work, fantasizing about taking out the boss or “sticking it to the Man.” Willard actually does something about it. It’s, in fact, his overzealous, mistreated friend, Ben, who does the dirty work. Ben becomes a microcosmic representation of Willard’s frustrations. Willard uses Ben’s gumption to right his perceived wrongs until a guilty conscience sets in. Imagine if we could project our malevolent desires, then turn off the projector when we want to deny our own guilt.

The timeless Glover plays Willard as the frustrated masses wonder where our fair share is. The out-of-touch employer treats him like he’s entitled and lazy, but he has an ulterior motive to make Willard’s life Hell. Mr. Martin (R. Lee Ermey) represents the wealthy class. His main objective is to get Willard to sell his house to him so he can tear it down and build condos. Can this dynamic be more black and white?

Willard inherited the property and all its debts, learning in a whirlwind after his mother dies that each generation is responsible for the previous generation’s fiscal recklessness. The cycle continues until something breaks. Good enough for me. I’d like a swarm of rats, myself! Send them to the boss’s office and “tear him up!”

But power corrupts. Willard never fully understands he’s been using Ben as an extension of himself. He wants to wipe his soldiers away once he realizes he could be in real trouble now that he’s essentially a murderer. Willard wants to evict Ben the same way old Mr. Martin wanted to evict Willard. But they, instead, turn on him.

Willard (the movie) is about the oppressed masses. The turn is that we think it’s Willard who represents this role. No, Willard only repeats the pattern of exploitation with those that are beneath him. It doesn’t matter who holds power; numbers will always win out. Twenty years later, a half-century later, the socio-economic dynamic still exists. Still, it’s also just an awful lot of fun watching a hoard of rats engulfing a room and anyone inside.

Long live the rats! Long live, Ben!

The post Why ‘Willard’ (2003) Is a Creepy Allegory About Classism appeared first on HorrorGeekLife.

Fuente: https://www.horrorgeeklife.com/2023/03/19/why-willard-2003-is-a-creepy-allegory-about-classism/

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