are a symbol of growing anger in this film. As Director Glen Morgan
says, "This is the story of a very lonely, angry young man.
Something Crispin Glover pointed out that I like is how the rats
just kind of appear. The rats are a manifestation of Willard's anger.
And if you don't get rid of that anger then it's literally going
to eat you."
Morgan, taking cues from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and The
Birds, using a house to represent Willard's crumbling family
heritage and animals as a reflection the human soul.
works for Mr. Martin, the former business partner of his deceased
father. Martin is intent on completely taking control of the Martin
family business. Willard is the only remaining obstacle. Martin
makes Willard's life miserable. The otherwise kind and gentle Willard
becomes increasingly angry.
Willard begins to manifest his anger a rat, named Socrates, appears.
Then, as Willard's anger grows, so does his rat population. Willard
is also emotionally conflicted. Director Morgan infused the film's
two key rats, Socrates and Ben, with characteristics that reflect
Willard's inner conflict, and additionally, represent Willard's
parents. For example, like Willard, Socrates loses his mother, and
Ben possesses shades of Willard's father. "The two rats also
represent our good and bad sides: how Willard can come to love this
little rat (Socrates) that came in from the basement, yet ultimately
decides to go the way of Ben," Morgan explains.
color of the rats underscore their differences. Socrates is small
and white, while Ben is large and a dark gray (gloomy and evil).
rat infestation begins in the basement --the dark unseen recesses
of the house. The connection here, is the unseen evil that often
festers deep in the human soul. In fact, the house becomes a character.
Built in the style of the late 1800s, the house reflects the grandeur
and emotional idealism of that age-or at least the illusion of it-yet
its furnishings are from the 1970s, indicative of when things took
a turn for the worse for the Stiles family. The parlor, long since
abandoned by guests, has been turned into a shrine to Willard's
father, who gazes down upon his family from the portrait above his
urn, his ashes -and his ghost- never really buried.
Willard's sadistic boss, Mr. Martin, chipping away at the Stiles
house, Crispin Glover sees the structure as representing the total
of Willard's heritage. "Mr. Martin is ultimately trying to
get rid of this house," the actor says. "And there are
many things eating away at the foundation, not just the rats. Everything
is going against the solidity of his background. And that's psychologically
pulls us along in this film, which has received favorable reviews,
is the need to know the outcome. Will Willard experience justice,
or will he become a rat himself, or will the rats eventually turn
is a film that teaches us great lessons about unchecked anger.
anger enters the mind, wisdom departs (Thomas À Kempis).