Neglected Film No. 14 – ‘Squirm’
Jeff Lieberman was an interesting director for all the wrong reasons. His three great B-movie horrors, ‘Blue Sunshine’, ‘Just Before Dawn’ and this are really oddly acted. ‘Blue Sunshine’ has one of the strangest performances on film, with a seemingly hypnotised Zalman King (later of ‘Red Shoes Diaries’ fame – ‘Fifty Shades’ fans, you were beaten to it by thirty years) wandering about trying to decide what to say for most of the picture.
This earlier feature isn’t far behind, as an annoying but entirely believable NYC teen heads for Fly Creek, Georgia, a sweaty little burg where power lines have just turned the local bait farm into a factory for flesh-hungry worms. What our hero, Don Scardino, walks into is not just a ‘When Nature Fights Back’ scenario but a hotbed of sexual tension, as two Deep South girls and their mother virtually climb the walls with horny frustration. Don’s condescending New York ‘tude alienates the local sheriff and the handyman, whose brain is somewhat lagging behind that of the average worm. The handyman assumes he was in line for one of the girls, and now this upstate upstart steals his thunder.
After a fishing boat seduction scene goes horribly wrong (What’s in those bait pots?) the handyman becomes ‘Wormface’ while Mom, thinking she’s in a Tennessee Williams play, starts pawing the curtains and fanning herself, complaining that it’s ‘A lawng tahm since we had a ree-yul man about the hay-ouse.’ The electronic score gets carried away with itself, the worms fill the basement and Lieberman has the temerity to work in a few Hitchcock tropes, with neatly played food scenes in the local cafe (Don’t order the spaghetti!) that actually work.
Amazingly the film is little seen and has never been rebooted, which is a shame because so much of it works. Never mind the fact that it looks to have been shot on greaseproof paper rather than film stock, don’t wonder why the town is entirely devoid of extras, just enjoy the sheer strangeness of a horror movie that eventually gets right under your skin…