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Squirm

Shout Factory // PG // October 28, 2014
List Price: $29.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted October 16, 2014 | E-mail the Author
Squirm:
Younger readers won't recall the joy and trepidation of heading back to the horror section of your local video store to scope out the offerings. Things were different then. Not only did you have to go to a video store to rent a movie, you didn't have the Internet to give you the complete low-down on every movie ever made. So you'd be confronted with video box after video box of alluring sleaze, with little to point you in the right direction. Squirm was one of those sleazy tempters; the cover art featuring a skull dripping with worms. But a horror film about vengeful worms can't be good, can it?

See, what happens in this 1976 Georgia potboiler is this: the electric went into the ground and enraged the worms. There was this big summer storm, which knocked down the power lines, sending the electric straight into the biggest source of bloodworms in the South. But them bloodworms don't like it, and they're gonna take their anger out on anyone who gets too close. They're gonna scream and skeletonize them suckers instantly. Or turn 'em into an evil maniac known as worm-face, whatever works.

Effete New York city slicker antique dealer Mick (an oddly pleasing/irritating Don Scardino) comes down to Fly Creek Georgia to court lovely Geri (Patricia Pearcy) while getting his hands on a bunch of cheap collectibles. Shocking dumbfounded locals with his smarmy cries that "there's a worm in my Egg Cream!" Mick ticks off the Sheriff, which mucks things up when it's time to convince him of the worm-chomped corpses littering the countryside. And so on.

Writer/director Jeff Lieberman has been quoted as saying Hitchcock's The Birds was the biggest influence on his movie, the literal opposite side of that equation. Despite the iconic worm-eats-face scene (pretty nifty) and late-night panic in a worm-infested farmhouse, what Lieberman concocted is more of a Southern Gothic character study of a small town. Jean Sullivan digs into her role as Geri's mom with haunted grace and a stage-worthy Southern accent (Sullivan claimed Tennessee Williams as an influence). Pearcy's a willowy hoot as Geri, innocent, wide-eyed and tantalizing. "Willie's Worm Farm" scion Roger Grimes is played to within a shucks-and-a-hambone by gleeful method actor R.A. Dow. ("Maybe Roger had to stay late at the Worm Farm?") Dow spent weeks in Port Wentworth Georgia (where Squirm was filmed) to get the right feel for his character. He's spot on, as his laconic drawl and mild suspicion of outsiders perfectly matches those traits in every bit player we see, all of which were actual regular old residents of Port Wentworth.

Neither terribly scary nor gory, (by today's standards, certainly) Squirm is nonetheless faultless, delightful genre fun. You'll have as much fun taking in Mick and Geri's weird, playful romance as you will watching Roger's face get eaten by worms. Local talent ensures the feel of the film as a true 'city slicker in the sticks' proposition, but things never get contemptuous. Squirm is a fun throwback from exploitation days of yore, with character to spare, and hot and cold running worms from the shower. Just beware when them worms get all riled up from the electric. Recommended.

The DVD

Video:
Squirm slimes your way in 1080p high-definition widescreen transfer in a 1.85:1 ratio presentation. Seemingly using natural lighting throughout, the film has a moody look, but colors look quite natural. Details are consistently sharp in both the foreground and middle ground. Some nice film grain speaks of the film's origins, but digital grain is not evident, nor is any other serious issue with the transfer. I noticed one instance of slight blurring around characters' faces as they walked quickly past greenery in the background. Not sure if that's down to my set or player, but it's just an instant and you won't notice it unless you're looking for it.

Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio in Mono won't exactly give your peripheral speakers a workout, but the film otherwise sounds fine, with sharp, clean sounding dialog and a good, well-mixed soundtrack.

Extras:
Lesser extras include the Theatrical Trailer, TV and Radio Spots, (remember when horror movies used to advertise on the radio? Those were the days) and a Still Gallery. Writer/director Jeff Lieberman contributes a lively and entertaining Commentary Track that delivers lots of fun and interesting behind the scenes information. Interviews with Jeff Lieberman, Don Scardino, and Special Effects Artist Bill Milling are worthwhile, as is a mildly amusing Tour of Locations with Lieberman. As far as 'collector's editions' go, this is a fun but somewhat scanty collection of extras.

Final Thoughts:
Squirm is exemplary of the rampaging nature nonsense that ruled the screens in the 1970s. Thoroughly entertaining, oozing Southern charm, and not in the least scary or gory by today's standards, Squirm is pure retro fun for discerning horror connoisseurs. A great looking transfer, combined with not exactly over-abundant extras land this Blu-ray in the Recommended category.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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