Squirm (1976)
Squirm (1976)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: July 30th, 1976 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jeff Lieberman Actors: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan, Peter Mac Lean, Alma Sanders

 


 

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n September 29th, 1975, a sudden electrical storm on the rural coast of Georgia causes a lengthy power outage in the town of Fly Creek – as well as an incredibly bizarre phenomenon related to a local worm farm. “Squirm” has the audacity to avoid the use of the popular phrase “based on a true story,” instead just scrolling text across the screen as if it were pure fact. Clearly, the truths are drastically skewed, especially when killer worms start to attack (and burrow into people’s faces). At least they’re biting blood worms (bristle worms), which are truthfully carnivorous.

The film starts off with an obligatory shower scene, with dimwitted gardener Roger Grimes (R.A. Dow) peaking in on the unsuspecting girl. She’s the redheaded Geraldine “Geri” (Patricia Pearcy), who’s set to meet her friend, flying in from New York. The tourist is Mick (Don Scardino), a seemingly romantic interest, forced to walk through the ominous woods due to a flooded road leading into town. Geri eventually picks him up unharmed, having borrowed Roger’s truck, which is full of bait worms. When they get back to town, the worms have mysteriously disappeared.

Geri and Mick stumble upon a skeleton at Mr. Beardsley’s place; signs around the dwelling indicate that the bones belong to the old antique dealer himself. But when they call Sheriff Jim Reston (Peter Mac Lean), an egomaniacal man who doesn’t take kindly to strangers and likes to throw around his authority, the proof suddenly disappears (causing everyone to immediately become sleuths). When Mick takes Geri’s sister Alma (Fran Higgins) to investigate the creepy suspect Willie Grimes (Carl Dagenhart), Roger and Geri go fishing, resulting in a paper cup of angling worms attacking the unsuspecting fisherman.

Anticipation builds steadily because the Georgia drawl is so incredibly slow (just like the wrigglers themselves), along with a few expected (or mildly creative) scenes, including spaghetti-eating, worms spilling out of a shower head and filling a bathtub, the inevitable “worm-cam” viewpoint, and even a very odd dinner scene with the whole family (headed by mother Naomi, played by Jean Sullivan), in which they converse like members of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” bunch. Music by Robert Prince adds its own special brand of suspense, with peculiar horn sounds and screeching violins. The glutinous invertebrates themselves make nearly electronic, gurgling, warbling noises, as well as full-fledged roars during the frequent close-ups of actual worms – for superior gross-out effect.

“I like a good thunderstorm. It makes you feel helpless,” casually comments Mick. “Squirm” features spectacularly bad acting and atrocious dialogue, which fits right in with the B-movie vibe and the low budget look (it’s painfully obvious when the bus driver is the most convincing actor). Despite all the right ingredients for a worthwhile medium-grade frightfest (including the odd transitions from monster movie to slasher to haunted house thriller), the plot moves just slowly enough that even at a modest 90-minute runtime, it feels as if scenes and potential are continually wasted. At least, there’s plenty of unintentional humor – and the end credit lullaby is hilariously incompatible!

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10

 

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