Squirm (1976)

Squirm PosterEvery day we humans take for granted our little slimy friends that aerate the soil and provide good fishing bait. Truly, next to dogs and a good beer, man’s best friend.

But what would happen if the unthinkable occurred? What would we do if all of our deepest fears suddenly became a terrifying reality? I don’t mean what would happen if these worms turned against us and started to eat us. That’s a stupid notion that I wouldn’t dream of wasting your time with.

What I mean is what would happen if someone made a movie about that stupid notion? Would we have the mental toughness to survive and even more importantly, would we have the hour and thirty-three minutes to waste watching it all unfold?

While I can’t vouch for the mental toughness necessary to avoid getting eaten by a bunch of three inch long creatures without arms, legs, eyes or any super powers of note, I can safely say that coming up with 93 minutes of time to check out just what the devil a worm rampage might look like was a lot easier than I’d ever like to admit!

Squirm turns out to be the expected collection of 1970s nature runs amok clichés, but hampered beyond the general stupidity of the whole genre by the fact that it’s all about worms. At one time or other, we’ve seen just about anything with fur, scales, legs, wings, stingers, and fangs turn on us and temporarily have a field day keeping a series of grade B, C, and in this movie’s case, D, level actors and actresses on the run.

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Sometimes we can understand the appeal of such things such as when stuff like spiders and sharks get pissy, but other times you end up wondering just why it is that we’re supposed to be sweating invasions by stuff like rabbits and frogs. At least those last two creatures may be able to hop down your shirt or something, but worms? I guess they can gross you out when they get in your egg cream like what happens to Mick in this movie.

The fact that the “hero” of your piece is busy ordering egg creams might appear to give the worms at least a fighting chance, but the whole time I’m thinking to myself, “uh, why don’t you just walk away from the worms instead of cowering, screeching and hiding in trees?”

But these aren’t normal earthworms! They’re some kind of bloodworms and sandworms and they bite! We know this because of the extreme close ups of their fearsome mouths, complete with the dubbed-in roaring sound we get whenever there’s an attack.

Fine, but last time I checked these buggers aren’t exactly chasing you with motorcycles. Besides, while there’s scenes with these special worms, you’ve got other scenes with gallons of worms (if you like worms, you won’t go away feeling cheated) where they look like regular old earthworms or spaghetti.

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So what did we do this time to rouse nature against us? Detonate a nuclear device on some worm breeding ground? Dump a bunch of pesticide on a big worm lair? Maybe we had some top secret government experiment that involved genetically altering worms to become perfect super soldiers?

None of the above. Big storm came up, blew down some power lines and all the electricity that flooded into the ground drove the worms up to the surface seeking blood. Or vengeance! Or brains! Or something. For whatever reason, they seemed content to feast on the hick inhabitants of Fly Creek, Georgia which frankly did a lot to lessen the suspense because is the world really going to be any worse off if a bunch of inbred hillbillies became premature worm food?

Not content to merely spotlight a questionable monster, the movie further sabotages an already bad idea when they introduce wimpy, four-eyed, skinny, red-haired Mick as the man who would stand against the army of worms.

Mick is visiting Fly Creek to not only hang out with a local girl he met named Geri, but also to go antiquing! In the movie’s most shocking twist, their mother is played by Jean Sullivan, an actress who has about five parts to her name, but one of which is in the movie Roughly Speaking about thirty years before! I wonder if Rosalind Russell ever gave her career advice about acting opposite a bunch of worms?

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Perhaps recognizing that having a wimp running away from worms might not be enough to carry an entire film, they also throw in Roger who works on his dad’s worm farm. He’s a dumb lug who has eyes for Geri and is upset when the city slicker Mick shows up as Geri’s boyfriend. Sounds like Geri’s got to worry about being attacked by all kinds of worms!

Whatever inner-logic the movie tried to maintain about the big worm uprising is completely abandoned when the worms attack Roger and instead of killing him like everyone else, they just crawl up into his head and turn him into a rampaging maniac, though he was so dimwittedly psychotic to begin with, other than the worms hanging off his face, I couldn’t really see much difference in his behavior.

Some movies botch a good idea in the execution and other movies are noble failures for whatever reason, but then there’s movies like Squirm. A horrible idea that you never take seriously and treated without any irony, this is the sort of movie that could generate a few laughs in you’re in the right frame of mind (i.e. drunk), but you know you’re in trouble when you’re watching it and find yourself longing for the epic amphibian/Sam Elliot showdown in Frogs. You’ll especially be longing for it when Mick feels compelled to take his shirt off and use it for a torch to fend off the worms. Thanks, but it wasn’t only the worms you just fended off, buddy.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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