MGM // 1976 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 2nd, 2003
The night is crawling with killers
Evil comes in many shapes and sizes. For some it is a man in a hockey mask. For others it's the reality of poverty and sickness. For the good folk of Fly Creek, Georgia, the devil has appeared in the shape of man-eating earthworms. Yes, nothing says terror like lumps of flesh that move at a pace of two feet per season. After a thunderstorm knocks a tower full of power lines onto the mushy ground, the normally docile worms are suddenly transformed into bloodthirsty monsters from hell. Their prey: a town full of backwoods yahoos who haven't half a brain among them. This group of pea-brained nimrods is led by Mick (Don Scardino, He Knows You're Alone), a visitor from New York City, and his newly appointed girlfriend, Geri (Patricia Pearcy, The Goodbye Girl), a southern redhead who lives with her mother and sister in an old farmhouse. As the worms make their way through the small town's water pipes and veggie gardens, Mick and Geri begin to sense that something may be amiss. And then the bodies start piling up -- bodies eaten hollow and filled with oozing, sliming worms. Now Geri and Mick must fight for their lives...and quite possibly their very souls...against an enemy that has only one goal: till and till again!
What can you say about a movie featuring mutated killer worms that isn't already implied in the title Squirm? 1976 was the year I was born and was the year Squirm was released. Talk about an omen of biblical proportions. Squirm is everything I love about B-movies featuring deadly earthworms: bad acting, worse effects, a rural setting, podunk characters, rubber worms and, of course, that ever-present '70s cheeseball love song over the end credits. Listen, I know what you're thinking. "But Judge Patrick, it's a movie about killer worms. For goodness sake, have you lost all sense of cinematic discernment?!?" The answer, of course, is "yes I have!," but that happened years ago and should be obvious to my loyal readers. Squirm is the type of movie that has the balls to throw tons of fake worms on the floor and then asks us to buy that intelligent humans can't escape their sluggish wrath. If the worms could speak, I imagine they'd be saying "I'm coming to get you! Your death is imminent! Very soon! Just wait...once I crawl over there. Any minute now...dammit, just hold on..." The acting is exactly what you think it is -- hammy, exaggerated, embarrassing...take your pick. The real stand out is R.A. Dow (who never before or after showed his face on film) as Roger, a Deliverance-like worm farmer who makes the rapists in I Spit on Your Grave look like Mayo clinic brain surgeons. And then there are the worms. Oh Lordy be, the mighty fun you'll have watching these denizens of death howl at their prey! I'll bet you didn't know that earthworms can scream; this is just one of the amazing facts you'll discover in this National Geographic epic gone haywire. Thrill to footage of the worms crawling out of a shower head, then going back up via the magic of reversible film! The most atrociously entertaining moments come when the worms collectively invade a house and fill up the living room -- if you've always wanted to see what appears to be spaghetti noodles covering a house while people wrestle around underneath them, Squirm is your ticket to ride. But be warned: once you witness the worm's reign of terror, you may never be the same again!
Squirm is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen with an anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 TVs. Well slap my ass and call me Sally! Fans of this cult classic will be thrilled to see it in its original widescreen version, wall-to-wall with worms! I was impressed with this transfer -- granted, it's not great looking and there are multiple blemishes and imperfections in the picture (some grain, dirt, and edge enhancement show up from time to time). However, considering what we're working with here (a low budget '70s horror film about worms), I've got to admit that this looked far better than expected. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in English. Much like the video transfer, this sound mix is better than it deserves to be. There aren't any fancy effects or surround sounds, but none are really needed -- the mono experience is just what the doctor ordered for a movie like Squirm. Aside of a small amount of distortion in the mix, Squirm's effects, dialogue, and music (including that haunting opening theme sung by a child) sound pretty good. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Worm fans rejoice! MGM has included not only a theatrical trailer and TV spot, but also a commentary track by director/writer Jeff Lieberman! This is one of the more entertaining commentaries I've heard in a long time. Lieberman knows exactly what kind of movie he's made which means things are never taken too seriously. Lieberman even makes mention of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and their take on the film, noting that they're not the only ones who can mock the film, which he proves time and time again. Filled with fun tidbits (they actually electrocuted the worms!) and stories about the shoot (Boy Scouts were the ones who made the earthworms move!), this commentary track is well worth the listen for fans.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary Track by Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman
* Theatrical Trailer
* TV Spot