Squirm (1976)


“A storm causes some power lines to break and touch the ground, drawing millions of man-eating worms out of the earth, and into town where they quickly start munching on the locals.” — IMDb

Oh, Squirm. I don’t care what anyone says… this was a great movie. It was featured on one of the very last episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the director, Jeff Lieberman, was not happy about it… but perhaps not for the reason you’d expect: “Mystery Science Fiction was really invented by Zacherly, and Elvira called herself Zacherly with Tits. The movies they would get, they would get them because the owners of the films would go, ‘Oh well, a little bit is better than nothing’ because nobody was booking these movies to play in their entirety. But Squirm was playing all over the world in its entirety on its own, so why would you make a cheap sale like that? Once you do that you can’t sell it to stations at the same time. Of course the fandom thought I was being sensitive about them goofing on it, like it was Gone With the Wind or Citizen Kane. I was furious about the financial aspect. I didn’t give a shit what anybody says. It’s a movie about worms.”

I think it makes me love the movie more to know that Lieberman doesn’t take it, or himself, too seriously. It would be hard to do so with a movie about worms — not huge, monster worms or poisonous worms or even worms crawling out of dead bodies. Just regular ol’ worms wriggling their way up out of the ground. It’s not that scary of a movie, really — though it tries, with its closeups of the worms with these monster screams that I guess we’re supposed to assume they’re making — but what it lacks in horror it makes up for in charm. And okay, a handful of creepy scenes, like finding the old man whose insides have been entirely replaced by worms, or when they find Mrs. Sanders as just a vaguely human-shaped pile of worms, or poor Roger pulling his way up the stairs in a last attempt to take them down with him.

“I like a good thunderstorm. It makes you feel… helpless.”

It also does a great job at toeing the line with lots of great, dark humor. The scene where they are pleading for the sleazy sheriff’s help while he’s on a date at an Italian restaurant and they just keep panning back and forth between closeups of him and his ladyfriend slurping down spaghetti I MEAN COME ON, so good.

This movie also showcases some early makeup effects by Rick Baker (before his American Werewolf in London days) — I particularly enjoyed what he did with Roger’s face to make it look as though worms were burrowing under his skin.

Ultimately, while not much of a scare, this movie is worth it for some icky worm scenes and some pretty commendable dialogue (heavy on the Southern accent).

Rating: 6/10 | Director: Jeff Lieberman | Writer: Jeff Lieberman | Music: Robert Prince | Starring: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan, Peter MacLean, Fran Higgins


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