Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Green Machine Double Feature: Worm and Familiar

Every once in awhile a filmmaker decides to tap into my brain and pull dialogue straight from my inner monologue. While this typically happens in shorts spurts and results in a one liner from a film that I might identify with, never has it happened on the scale as when watching Zach Green and Richard Powell's "motivated curmudgeon" films, Worm and Familiar. While I'm quite certain that Mr. Green and Mr. Powell were not spinal tapping me in my sleep ala the Matrix to extract my double super secret thoughts from the fount of my psyche, the simple fact that I was able to identify with both these two films so strongly means that there's a little crazy man in all of us. That crazy man is cynical and full of observable truths. He's got teeth and ready to chaw away. Most of all this angry little man burns in us; it's an unquenchable, jump out of your skin type rage.  And what is he saying? Let's queue up a double feature with the Green machine as the focus.

Let's start from the beginning with Worm. Enter Geoffrey Oswald Dodd, a high school teacher just trying to make it take some lemons and make lemonade as all good high school teachers are expected to do. It's a fight not often won or at least the victory often lost in the four year stint of a public education institution, but it's a fight that grants quite a few teachers tenure if they can abide it long enough.. Dodd played by impeccably by Robert Nolan, has a little secret. He detests humanity in much the same way that you might find Archibald Beechcroft of Twilight Zone  (see clip from the Twilight Zone below) lore detest life. He's critical of every action a human can perform be it teacher or student. Dodd marches about his day with the previously described inner monologue that is filled with derision, deconstructive criticism and downright homicidal ideals. While he never acts on these ideas we as the audience might start to wonder what it would take to see Dodd pushed to the breaking point and in turn, what truth is there is Powell and Green's vision of the Universal Cynic (see Bad Religion for details on the song by the same name). 

(the motherfuckers disabled embedding to fuck with me on purpose... that was my inner monologue a moment ago)


Robert Nolan is a gem of an actor. You can't find honest like that just anyway. From his vocal performance while consulting himself internally on every offending situation he may encounter to his kind, sheep face while discussing the death with a coworker, Nolan is a special actor. He's tasked with playing to completely separate roles and while not exactly at the same time, I think you have to play the moral upstanding citizen just a little different when you realize that a Beechcroftian narcissistic, megalomaniac lurks behind his eyes.

Powell's interpretation of an every day high school is spot on. The kids don't care. The teachers care at least about their jobs and if nothing else about social hour in the faculty lobby. What he nails to a T is the malice with which some of us find every day situations completely deplorable. The subtle niceties of a casual conversation are like nails on a chalk board to more than a few of us. Yes, we all want to talk about the weather or the lottery or the latest family casualty to fall victim to the Bubonic plague... but really we don't. Really we are grasping at straws to evenly remotely find the time to shave our wretched faces or scribble a few words that might resemble sentences in an attempt to pen the Great American Novel.  Is it really so wrong to have Dodd's inner monologue play throughout our own head like a tape in a Walkman? Would Powell fault us if we did have that very voice in our own head? Probably not. I think we all have a little Geoff Dodd running around in our head, some with a more homicidal, desperate twinge than others. It's all about coping, right? Finding out what silences the beast as if you are the protagonist in a General Mills cereal commercial at breakfast. 

For Dodd there is no peace just as there was no peace for Archibald Beechcroft in the Twilight Zone.We all attempt to find our own personal coping methods in an attempt to block out the noise of generated by the personal lives of others in our own fashion. I for one sit in lonely bathroom stalls pretending to shit for at least ten minutes a day, sitting. Relaxing. I'd bring a fucking cup of coffee in there if I thought that the odor or feces wouldn't permeate the Styrofoam cup. It's cheaper than therapy and less expensive than a good trial attorney to boot. In a post-Columbine, violence-with-your-apple-dear-teacher world, it's not such a large step to realize that when you pack humans together like rats, they'll start to fight for the cheese and get more than a bit put out when you step on their tail; verbally or quite literally. By the end of this beast of a movie, Nolan is veritable freight train bearing down on you and then passing you with Doppler Effect in full tilt boogie. You may just feel like some recanted your own day at work.

The second half of our Green Machine, Zach Green Double Feature  (short for Zach Green and Richard Powell Double Feature) is Familiar. Now, I'll be perfectly honest that I didn't know what to expect from either of these movies based on the absolutely scrumptious artwork that accompanied them. Worm had me on a warpath to see that film. The brief clip on YouTube had me hungry for that obviously tainted able and after watching it Nolan was just a juicy and venomous any apple ever handed to any Snow White.  The one sheet for Familiar was tactile; you could feel the embossed font of the title right on that man's belly as if it were a parasitic alien swimming around inside an every day Joe.

In Familiar we follow John Dodd (Nolan again!) with some fairly similar tendencies as Geoffrey Dodd. Both have a caustic inner monologue. Both have moments in their every day lives that push them to the break of the unthinkable or at least, inactionable. Both Dodd's seem to be victims of a greater machine that is forcing them to lead lives that they are perfectly unhappy to lead. In John Dodd's unfortunate scenario, he finds out that his wife is the early stages of a dreaded, cantankerous disease... PREGNANCY! Dodd, who was about to kick his youngling straight out the nest, is offered the joyous news that his wife is about to spawn another progeny into the world. Dodd's inner monologue steps in and begins to offer suggestions as to how one might remedy the situation. Is it John's monologue or a third party, parasitic being? Only William Castle knows for sure.

Familiar features some well done gross out effects one of which bears distinct resemblance to creature from the Tingler from the 1959. When all hell breaks loose and the inner monologue takes over the film showcases Nolan's talent one step beyond what he was able to offer in Worm. Again, I ask that you put yourself in Dodd's shoes and ask yourself if you might respond so differently to the scenarios to which he is faced. He is less cynical but more selfish that his portrayal in Worm. He is a man of action. Many look at retirement and children leaving the nest as an achievable milestone and when life throws a curve ball preventing the realization of one of those dreams, it would be likely for any of us to take it with a ferocious tirade directed purely inward. That Dodd's actions are eventually projected outward (unlike his character in Worm) displays an escalation of emotion and an evolution of character. Is a person under real or imagined duress the same person as that same person in a moment of calm? Or is that person maybe two people? When Dodd defines parasite while sitting at his table are we to believe that he defining what lurks inside him or maybe, just maybe... his family? 

These two films showcase what is going right in independent cinema. When quality actors and filmmakers come together with exceptional prowess we get told actual stories rather than staring at music videos strung together with gratuitous violence gluing them together. There's real social commentary here. There is most certainly a mirror being handed to each person who watches one of these films and the combination of both works paints a picture of each and every one of us, not necessarily at our finest hour; but at our weakest and most animal moments. I'm not proud to say that I can identify with each "Dodd", but I do. I suppose that somehow you're meant to find a moral in these two pieces. Think before you act... but don't think too much. ...or If you must act, better make sure there's only the one person inside and that he's taken a hardy helping of moral fiber. Above all messages you might find in either picture, find two well crafted movies that will stir up your sewing circle, recipe swap or Facebook status... instead planning a ground assault using the drowning voice in your head.

Here's a little Terror style thank you to Zach Green for letting me perurse Familiar (aside from naming my double feature after him).


-Dr. Terror

End Note: The part in Worm where his coworker approaches him for the lottery. That happens to me at every time the fucking lottery hits $250 million. They extort week after week of cash money until someone finally wins and... big surprise... it ain't us. I see red. I think impure thoughts. I should confess my thoughts to a priest even though I'm not fucking Catholic.


  1. I am the writer and director of an upcoming short horror film entitled “The Prospector’s Curse”. The film features Robert Nolan, star of Worm and Familiar.

    Below is a link to our press release and poster, and I would be very grateful if you could help spread the word by writing about my film on your website. I would also like to send you the completed film for review once it’s available. Please let me know if you’re interested.!press-release

    Thanks for your time, and all the best
    Josh Heisie

  2. PS: My email address is