1971: Bruce Davison is Willard, a gentle, shy young man with a bedridden, chatty mother (a scary Elsa Lanchester) and a tyrannical, emasculating boss (Ernest Borgnine). Willard befriends two rats he discovers in the garden, names them Socrates and Ben, and eventually finds himself mentoring a horde of well-behaved vermin. Meanwhile, the new temp at work warms to him. Alex Northís wistful score is an evocative foil to this disturbing, character-driven film.
2003: Crispin Glover is Willard, a creepy, angry young man with an unwashed, senile mother (a terrifying Jackie Burroughs) and a greedy, rageaholic boss (R. Lee Ermey). Willard tries to kill the rats in the basement but eventually befriends Socrates (a cute albino mousiekins) and mentors Ben (a pig-eyed, malevolent wombat); meanwhile, his house fills up with tiny turds and the new temp at work decides heís insane. Shirley Walkerís cartoonish score is as unappealing as moldering cheese. Where Davisonís performance is complex and classy, Gloverís is overwrought and effluvial. Director Glen Morgan (The X-Files, Millennium) might warm some horror fans with this campy, sometimes-clever homage to a cult í70s hit, but the original filmís power and subtlety have been gnawed away; only crumbs remain. (94 minutes)