Squirm (1976)

squirm

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Worms invade a town.

A thunderstorm knocks down some power lines, which creates a surge amongst the worms in the earth and prompts them to come out of the dirt and go on the attack. Thousands upon thousands of them descend onto a small southern town filling up stores and homes and viciously biting those that get in their way.

A bizarre but interesting idea for a horror movie that manages to succeed mainly because it keeps it relatively believable. The worms stay regular size and the rationale behind it has some logical backing. It does take a while to get going and the real scares don’t occur until the very end. The subplot involving the tracking down of some skeletal remains doesn’t add anything, but the film is well crafted enough to build a weird atmosphere. The climax which features a home filled from floor to ceiling with millions of squirming worms is a unique sight.

R. A. Dow, who plays Roger the bad guy, is equally memorable. He looks menacing to begin with, but when he falls into a pile of the worms and gets all sorts of them eating into his face and he starts to look genuinely frightening. He then goes through the rest of the picture as this creepy worm-like man that is enhanced by the excellent make-up effects by the renowned Rick Baker.

Don Scardino makes for an interesting good guy/lead. He is not brawny, good looking, or even cool, but instead brainy and at certain points quite timid. At times he gets a bit too wussy, but he is at least a refreshing change to the blow-dried stud muffin. He resembles the film’s writer/director Jeff Lieberman and may have been cast simply for that reason.

Patricia Pearcy is capable as the love interest. She is a bit too country and certainly no beauty, but manages to be distinctive nonetheless. Fran Higgins as her younger sister Alma possesses one of the homelier looking faces you will ever see. Having her paint her nails and wear high heels so she can look ‘sexy’ seems almost cruelly comical.

The opening storm segment is weak with the falling power lines looking too much like they are miniature replicas. Lieberman’s recreation of the small town southern people is clichéd and stilted. The music is effective except for a part where a child sings a creepy little tune that doesn’t quite work or fit.

The close-ups of the worms are awesome, but I didn’t care for the sound effects used that sounds like squealing pigs. The noise effects created to resemble their squirming comes-off too much like sloshing water.

Overall the film manages to be effective. It’s certainly no classic, but successfully original.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 30, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jeff Lieberman

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

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