RETRO-REVIEW: The Willies (1990)

I grew up watching all kinds of movies, but horror films have always been my favorite. As much as I love the classics and the gore, though, there will always be a special place in my heart for the “teen horror” film, with movies like The Monster Squad being universally loved and known for their blend of kids, monsters, and horror mayhem.
Less known, though, is the 1990 Brian Peck film The Willies, which stars Sean Astin and Michael “Donkey Lips” Bower. The movie, one of many horror anthologies to come out in the 80s and 90s, is based around a group of kids spending the night camping out in the backyard, telling each other scary stories. Sean Astin is one of the three, a group of cousins, and – of course – is played as the ringleader. All three of them are responsible for at least one of the stories told throughout the film. (Fun time: watch and listen for the joke made about The Goonies, to which Astin replies looking severely annoyed that he had to mock one of his biggest films).
They start out with several classic urban legends, like the exploding dog in the microwave story, or the old man who died on the haunted mansion ride story, and – of course – the rat in the bucket of chicken tale. Once we get the quick-bites out of the way, though, we get started with a couple of longer stories, including one about a janitor who also happens to be a creature that eats bullies, as well as another about a boy obsessed with flies, and who captures them, picks off their wings, and uses them to build intricate dioramas.
ll the stories in the movie are super corny, but they’re twisted and fun. Featuring a cast of kids and teens (and given its PG-13 rating), the movie doesn’t delve into the graphic or the gory, although we are treated to a boy having his arms ripped off and a substational amount of blood pouring from the ceiling after someone is killed off screen. So although it might not satiate the gore-hound audience, it definitely makes up for the violence with some horror of other types.
The movie itself is filled with ridiculous one-liners and plenty of bad SFX, but that’s what gives the film its charm. Gross-out gags such as eating bugs and maggots or biting into a big ol’ rat might give you the “urge to regurge,” though, because as the tagline says, You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll puke, you’ll die! 
For fans of vintage, teen horror, and anyone else who liked to dig out the obscure flick on VHS from the back wall of the dark, local video store. If you’re looking for the perfect film for that late Friday night trip down memory lane, or you just want something to introduce your kids to the world of horror without terrifying them for life, check out Brian Peck’s The Willies.

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