The Willies (1990) Movie Review
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Brian Peck
Producer: Talaat Captan
Writer: Brian Peck
Date Released: December 28, 1990
Sean Astin as Michael
Jason Horst as Kyle
Joshua John Miller as Josh
Rating = 1.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Two brothers and their cousin pull out the stops telling each other their best horror stories on a campout in this anthology horror film.
There’s very little gore to be seen outside of a blood spatter here or there; much of it is only implied. However, the urban legend segment at the beginning of the movie does include the infamous story about a well-meaning old woman exploding her dog in the microwave with visuals.
The Grave Review
The Willies (1990) presents its own spin on the anthology movies which were popular at the time. The movie presents a couple of familiar urban legends at the very beginning to set the tone, but then moves on to two long stories. The first is “Bad Apples,” which is about a boy who finds a monster in his school’s bathroom and the second is “Flycatcher,” about a boy who is obsessed with flies. It differentiates itself from many other popular horror anthologies that preceded it by making the focus kids and teens and the kind of stories they might pass around to each other, which would later become common with series like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps. Although this early attempt at reaching a slightly younger audience frames its stories well and do sound exactly like the kind of stories kids might swap, it feels as if it’s floundering between the regular adult audience and the teen/kid audience it appears to actually be aimed at.
The acting is a little cheesy—the story segment set at the elementary school features nine-year-old bullies who dress like the high school stoners and talk like fifties greasers, for one—but that’s part of the appeal of a horror anthology and horror aimed at young adult audiences alike. The cast of “Flycatcher” is made up of slightly older kids that had more acting experience, so they are a little easier to watch than those in “Bad Apples,” and though the cast of the framing story doesn’t have much to do, they are passable as teenage friends stuck with an annoying younger kid.
Although The Willies isn’t unbearable, it’s easy to see why it isn’t well-remembered today. It seems like it couldn’t decide what audience it wanted to reach: “Bad Apples” has better effects but younger kids that would probably bore teens, “Flycatcher” has older kids but a shambling story that is more likely to bore younger kids. I couldn’t help but think that story could have been tightened: the glut of young adult horror that followed The Willies had surer footing with its audiences, and I kept on having the nagging thought that Are You Afraid of the Dark? would have been able to tighten “Flycatcher” up and tell the story much more effectively. Even the best parts of this movie just reminded me of other media that did the same thing better: although I liked the bizarre urban legends segment at the beginning, the short reenactments just reminded me of the campiness that I appreciated in Tales of the Darkside. The twist ending to “Flycatcher” and the frame story are in line with the kind R.L. Stine writes for teenage audiences. So why wouldn’t I just watch those shows or read those books instead? Although it’s interesting to see the roots of this subgenre of horror, chances are you’re just going to want to return to your old favorites by the end, rather than return to this one. However, if you’re looking for something for a burgeoning, younger horror fan, this may be a good transition to something more adult.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Willies (1990) one and a half graves out of five graves.
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