A shabby horror anthology, THE WILLIES takes its cue from the work of Professor Jan Harold Brunvand of the University of Utah.
A leading folklorist, Brunvard collects "urban legends," gruesome anecdotes and dire rumors often repeated as fact but almost always groundless: giant alligators in the sewers of Manhattan, the circus parade elephant who sat on a compact car, escaped maniacs with hooked hands, and so on.
Brunvand's series of books, beginning with The Vanishing Hitchhiker, are thought-provoking and grand entertainment. Not so with THE WILLIES, for, whatever its inspiration, the entire production is dreadfully written and realized.
A trio of boys holding a backyard camp-out swap Brunvardesque "gross, spooky stories that are true," and the viewer is treated to grotesque re-enactments of the rat-in-the-fried-chicken incident and the puppy-in-the-microwave drama. These are just the warm-ups for two original narratives, both
losers. The first concerns an elementary-school student who discovers a ravenous monster lurking in the boys' lavatory. His nasty classmates and teacher don't believe him and wind up victims of the scrawny puppet beast. The second, torturously longer segment introduces Gordy Belcher (Michael
Bower), a pudgy kid obsessed with catching, killing, disassembling, reassembling, and generally abusing flies. The rambling yarn finally concludes when Gordy uses stolen "miracle manure" to attract the insects, accidentally turning them into ridiculous man-sized monsters buzzing for revenge. Then,
back to the storytelling kids, where Michael (Sean Astin), in whose yard they're camping, suddenly introduces his father--the killer bathroom creature from earlier.
This cheap-shot finale gets an added measure of perversity thanks to a hint in the dialogue that Astin is portraying the very same character he essayed in Steven Spielberg's 1985 juvenile adventure THE GOONIES; except that here he gleefully presides over his buddies' doom. Viewers might also be
distracted from their agony by a strange moment in the "Fly Boy" tale, when Gordy Belcher tunes in the TV show "Growing Pains," and stars Kirk Cameron and Tracy Gold address him from the screen; their sitcom comrade Jeremy Miller also has a minor role in THE WILLIES. It came directly to video just
after Christmas 1990, bearing the blurb, "If you want to see a cute, nice, sweet little movie ... rent something else!" Take those last three words to heart. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A shabby horror anthology, THE WILLIES takes its cue from the work of Professor Jan Harold Brunvand of the University of Utah. A leading folklorist, Brunvard collects "urban legends," gruesome anecdotes and dire rumors often repeated as fact but almost a… (more)