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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SQUIRM (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - The Worms Crawl In, The Worm Crawl Out (Repost)

You see a movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and you think you understand it all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve enjoyed the good natured riffing of the robots both in conjunction with our featured Scream Factory release and other films, but while I love to laugh, I can’t help but think that some of these movies get pigeon holed as a result. Take Squirm for example. Sure it’s a movie about electrified night crawlers that kill and invade homes. When you give the old MST3K treatment you can belly laugh yourself into a pile of your own intestines having had your sides split evenly along both left and right sides, but that doesn’t mean that Squirm itself is a comedy. Quite the contrary. Squirm is actually really creepy, and even if you can’t get past the horde of spaghetti rolling through a house, it certainly is icky, gross, mondo-disgusto. This is animal horror. This is creature feature. 

I had the chance to meet director Jeff Lieberman at Chiller Theatre not too long ago. He signed a rather handsome Squirm poster for me, I gave him the lion’s share of fan praise that I could muster (being a bit nervous) and then realized that Lieberman was responsible for more than just Squirm. He was the man behind Just Before Dawn, Remote Control and Satan’s Little Helper (Blue Sunshine and Never-ending Story III as well). For a man whose name a rarely had heard spoken, I soon came to know him as a cult superstar. In reviewing his movies now, having just watched both Squirm and Satan’s Little Helper in tandem, I realize that he was a master of the creep out. Lieberman is the kind of guy who makes jokes in his movies. Either you get them and you laugh heartily or you don’t and you feel the ominous shadow of having seen a warped mind at work (a complement to be certain). Lieberman had done a screening of Remote Control and even did a Q&A. It was a shame I couldn’t be there, but I’m glad to have met him.
Synopsis from Scream Factory:
When a powerful storm knocks Fly Creek, Georgia's power lines down onto wet soil, the resulting surge of electricity drives large, bloodthirsty worms to the surface – and then out of their soil-tilling minds! Soon, the townspeople discover that their sleepy fishing village is overrun with worms that burrow right into their skin! Inundated by hundreds of thousands of carnivorous creatures, the terrorized locals race to find the cause of the rampage – before becoming tilled under themselves!

My first connection to Squirm was in An Album of Modern Horror. There was a picture of a man with his guts filled with all sorts of icky, slimy things. I didn’t know Squirm yet, but I would years later. That image stuck with me and guided me straight into the video store wear I became entranced by the skull head with creep crawlies worn like a crown. The iconic cover beckoned me. I rented Squirm with great ease. What I saw on tape was not quite what I had expected from a movie that generated such a disturbing still. What I got was the gross out, a low budget, poor quality gross out. I wasn’t disappointed mind you because there are plenty of solitary scenes that go above and beyond the flawed story or haphazard dialogue. That was the first time I had watched it. Of course subsequent viewing would be similar though I started to “get” Squirm. You don’t want a movie like Squirm because it has fascinating verbiage or Academy Award nominations spill out of like so many wormies. You watch Squirm to make your sister sick to her stomach. You watch it with a bowl of noodles and pull a “Lost Boys” Chinese Food scare on your friends. You watch it to shock which, as a younger man, I was indeed shocked.

My most recent viewing of Squirm, that of the Scream Factory Blu-ray, was a somewhat different experience. This is one good looking Blu-ray save for a bit of dust. I personally enjoy that kind of thing on older movies because it gives the movie a dirty, grindhouse feel, but I understand there are purest among you. My immediate thought was disbelief; I simply could not believe that this was the same schlock picture I had watched growing up. It looked so nice, like a real movie and not one that would receive a riffed out tongue lashing. In that same moment I realized that while Squirm focuses on the gross out, there are some truly surprising scares and plenty of tension. After all, we all know that the worms are lurking around every damn corner. We just don’t know when they’re going to rise up and take revenge. I’m terrified of spiders, but I never considered myself a freak for carnivorous worms.

Extras include an audio commentary track with writer/director Jeff Lieberman as well as a new interview with Lieberman, actor Don Scardino and the man who made Squirm squirm, Bill Milling (special effects). Jeff Lieberman takes you on a tour of the locations used in the movie. Of course you get one of the most fantastic trailers alongside powerful radio and TV spots. I love to use these trailers and samples in projects from time to time. The narrator is just so darn good. The package includes the newly commissioned artwork and traditional art on the flipside.

I’m not guaranteeing a scare out of Squirm, but I think it will get to a number of you once you remove it from the unofficial “so bad it’s good” movie list. Treat it like a horror movie and not a riffed on movie. Give Lieberman some respect for being a tremendous showman and filmmaker. Scream Factory gave you the Blu to make you twitch in your seat, now it’s your turn to writhe about in uncomfortable, heebie jeebie filled agony. Squirm hits Blu-ray October 28th.

The only improvement would have been to put the Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary track on here. Hey, a guy can dream and it's not like Shout doesn't put out MST3K.

Squirm is available for order now. 

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