From a cinema-studies perspective, jack-of-all-trades filmmakers are inherently interesting, since there’s something pure about artists who write, direct, and act in their own stories. That is, unless the stories are idiotic crap along the lines of The Worm Eaters, a cheaply produced comedy/horror hybrid featuring characters who do exactly what the title suggests, albeit not voluntarily. The flick’s protagonist is Herman Umgar (played by director Herb Robins), a middle-aged backwoods dullard who inherits lakeside property. The local mayor and his nefarious cronies conspire to steal the land from Herman, incorrectly assuming that Herman lacks both a paper deed to prove his ownership and the will to fight for his property. After some getting-to-know-you scenes during which we learn that Herman’s best friends are his pet worms, who are radioactive or supernatural or whatever, the movie gets down to business. Herman slips worms into food that enemies eat, and thereafter the victims become were-worms. Before long, Herman has a basement full of people stuck in mid-transformation. To achieve this effect, Robins has actors tuck their abdomens and legs into slimy sheathes, then wriggle on the floor while covered in goo. Accentuating these unpleasant images are the weird textures of bargain-basement electronic music. Meanwhile, the picture’s “humor” ranges from the scatological (lots of belching, an onscreen nasal discharge) to the stereotypical (Robins speaks in a bizarre quasi-Cajun accent). It’s all quite wretched to behold, and if there’s a seed of a viable satirical idea buried in here somewhere, it never took root. The Worm Eaters is to be avoided at all costs, unless you desperately need to see closeup shots of worms wriggling in the mouths of actors committed to helping Robins realize his dopey vision.
The Worm Eaters: SQUARE