Squirm was one of the staples of Saturday afternoon "Creature Double Features" that me and ol' Big McLargehuge used to gather round to watch every weekend when we were cutting our teeth on the genre. I was always grossed out beyond belief by this one, and, while times have changed, apparently my constitution hasn't. This is one gross flick.
A small seaside town in the deep south is struck by a fierce storm that has cut it off from the main roads and shut down power and cut off the phones. Mick (Scardino), a New Yorker en route to visiting his "friend" Geri (Pearcy), is dropped off of his bus and has to make the muddy commute across brackish swampland, where Geri awaits. When the two meet up, Mick is instantly introduced to the stereotypically unfriendly locals ("We don't like yer kind round here") and the local retarded fella, Roger (Dow), who has a thing for the young Mrs. Geri. Roger is the heir apparent to the town's booming worm farm business, and wants to slip Geri a worm of his own, so he lets the young gal borrow his dad's worm wagon to take Mick into town. When the couple return, Roger and his Pa discover that the worm wagon's cargo of over 100,000 nightcrawlers have vanished, and Roger gets a smack for his troubles. Meanwhile, Mick and Geri go off antiquing (this town has two types of businesses- antique shops and worm farms), where they happen upon a skeleton that's been stripped clean. Mick and Geri go get the local Sheriff, but when they return, the skeleton is gone, and Mick is placed on the hick cop's shitlist. All the while, the film flashes occasionally to a downed power line, zapping at the wet ground beneath...and worms.....
...terrible, terrible worms.
If you guessed that the worms start eating people, give yourself a cookie. How they do it is anyone's guess, but we are told something about a method Roger's father used to use to bring up more worms from the ground using electricity, and the shocked and bothered worms came up biting mad! Well, I guess the voltage from a downed power line somehow made them even angrier, although something tells me they'd just fry. Of course, were that the case, Lieberman wouldn't have much of a movie.
Then again, Squirm isn't much of a movie to begin with. First off, while Scardino shows a hint of ability as an actor, the rest of the cast look as though they were rounded up from the local gin mill. Secondly, while worms are quite gross, they are not scary. Worms can't even cross a street without frying to the pavement, let alone take down a human being. Unless these worms are being dumped on someone by the bucket load, even their "bite" would prove little more than an inconvenience. However, since we only see people scream in horror as they open doors, see what appears to be a six foot tall pile of yarn, and then cut to their worm covered corpses later on, we never really see what the worms do to incapacitate someone who could easily walk away from their "attack". But yes. The film is still pretty fucking gross.
Personally, I despise worms. I've never liked 'em one bit. Never played with them, never tortured them, hardly even looked at them. They are gross, slimy, and useless little creatures that seem to exist for no other reason than to provide proper bait for fishing, and even then, I use rubber ones. Did Squirm scare me? Not in the least. Did Squirm make me...err..squirm? You betcha.
Lieberman's film is a dark, dreary and amateurish affair that is really just meant to be one big gross-out, and it achieves that goal just fine. Personally, I found it rather funny in the unintentional sense, and that makes for a decent laughathon, but folks expecting real chills would be better off looking for those elsewhere.
The DVD from MGM, however, is a surprise. The film is presented in a very nice widescreen transfer, with a commentary track by Lieberman, as well as a theatrical trailer. This is another budget offering from the studio, so the addition of a commentary is a nice bonus indeed.
Squirm is a repulsive and goofy flick that I'm sure others will have a better time with than I did. I was never a big fan of the film when I was younger, but I do remember being quite bothered by its slimy antagonists, and still can't watch it without feeling a little grossed out, but that's hardly the hallmark of a good film. If you're into flicks like Frogs, Kingdom of the Spiders, or any of the other entries in the animals-run-amok genre, then I'm sure you'll dig these worms.