Friday, March 21, 2014

Squirm (1976)

          Under the heading of “you get what you pay for,” Squirm is a low-budget, Jaws-influenced creature feature about a small Georgia town menaced by killer worms. Not giant or radioactive killer worms, mind you, just plain creepy-crawlies that slither their way toward unsuspecting victims. The highly dubious premise for the movie holds that a lightning storm infuses the dirt around the town with massive amounts of electricity, driving the invertebrates crazy. Thus, in the aftermath of the storm, people in remote locations—boats, forests, sheds—get chewed to death by hordes of slimy critters. Meanwhile, our intrepid hero, youthful out-of-towner Mick (Don Scardino), struggles to protect a local girl, Geri (Patricia Pearcy), once the scope of the epidemic becomes clear. (Per the Jaws formula, Mick also clashes with a belligerent and skeptical sheriff.) Even by the low standards of ’70s monster movies, Squirm is quite silly. One suspects that writer-director Jeff Lieberman knew how little gas he had in the narrative tank, because he juices worm-attack scenes with gimmicks ranging from extreme close-ups of nasty non-arthropods brandishing teeth to cacophonous sound effects implying that worms make noises as loud as those generated by jungle animals.
          Plus, since the creatures in this feature are neither fast nor inherently formidable, Lieberman’s principal shock technique involves sudden cuts that reveal huge piles of worms occupying grotesque places, such as the insides of skeletons. In fact, the movie’s goofy climax literally features a tide comprising thousands of invertebrates scaling a staircase, as if the creatures intentionally pile upon themselves to reach human victims. Other notable flaws include a script filled with stupidly convenient twists and a woeful lack of self-aware humor. Having said all that, Squirm isn’t the worst picture of its type. Scenes move along briskly, the humid-looking Georgia locations suit the material, and the various shots of worms are sufficiently unpleasant. Better still, Lieberman approaches camp with a subplot about a redneck driven mad after being half-eaten by worms; the film’s biggest money shots involve the redneck wearing a facial prosthetic that simulates homicidal critters crawling through holes in his face.

Squirm: FUNKY

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