03rd Nov2017

‘Willard/Ben Limited Edition’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf


When people hear the Michael Jackson song Ben, many don’t know that it was written for a movie. With the remake of Willard, a lot of horror fans were made aware of the story of a boy and his rats. Now both are available in the Willard/Ben Limited Edition Blu-ray box set.

Willard Styles (Bruce Davidson) is somewhat of a social misfit. Made fun of by his co-workers and pushed out of his father’s company his only friends are rats, especially Ben and Socrates. When Socrates is killed at his workplace, Willard decides to get revenge on the people who have wronged him, with his rats. Bruce Davidson plays the part of Willard well, and having Ernest Borgnine as his nemesis, you really do pity him. That is why the relationship with the rats is so endearing to the audience. They give him an escape from the bullying at work and his overbearing mother who also makes his life hell.

When it comes to the rats, Ben is of course the one in charge, and even tries to dominate Willard himself. This is a battle of wills between human and rat, and we know that it can’t end well. If there is one thing lacking it is more focus on the relationship between Socrates and Willard. This may be why this is remedied in the remake with Crispin Glover. It is still made obvious though that Socrates is the special one, and Ben is jealous of that relationship.

Moving to the sequel, the fact it is named Ben gives away what the film focuses on. Featuring a young lonely boy named Danny (Lee Montgomery) he befriends Ben, who escaped the events of the first movie. With the rats under Ben’s control violently attacking people though the police are closing in, and it is only a matter of time before Danny’s new friend is in danger. Ben is interesting, because it looks to make the rats more violent, yet still wants to pull on the audience’s heartstrings. While we see the rats go on the rampage, when Ben visits Danny the friendship shows Ben’s gentle side. Unless of course he is just using the boy to get food.

The film is very manipulative of the audience’s emotions in Ben. Danny isn’t only a lonely boy but one who has heart problems. Ben appears to be his only friend, and he even writes songs about him (yep, that song) and it is easy to fall in love with the little friendship between the two. Ben allows Danny into his world, even making it clear to the other rats he is not to be attacked. This of course makes the ending all the more tear-jerking.

What is noticeable about Ben though is that it is more sensational than Willard too. The rat attacks happen on a larger scale, and are more violent, though surprisingly show less blood. It is noticeable though that without the relationship between Ben and Danny, the film wouldn’t have the same impact. You almost care about Ben and want him to escape, even if he is sending his friends out on the rampage.

The special features for the films include a commentary track by Bruce Davidson for Willard, and one for Ben by Lee Montgomery. Interviews are also included. There are trailers for the films too, and some stills. The interviews are interesting, as are the commentary tracks. It does feel a shame that there wasn’t a documentary though looking at the making of the two films.

Willard and Ben are both good movies and it is hard to pick between the two. Both movies in the Willard/Ben Limited Edition Blu-ray box set. have their own merits and do certain things better than the other, but most importantly they work well as a double bill. I will admit though the final scenes of Ben with Michael Jackson’s version of the song playing is the scene that will stick in your memory, and you’ll feel a tear in your eye.

**** 4.5/5

The Willard/Ben Limited Edition Blu-ray box set is available in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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