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Squirm: Collector's Edition

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
1976
Studio: 
Scream Factory
Genre: 
Man vs. Nature
Format: 
Blu-ray
Region: 
A
Aspect Ratio: 
1.85:1
Directed by: 
Jeff Lieberman
Cast: 
Don Scardino
Patricia Pearcy
R.A. Dow
Jean Sullivan
Peter MacLean
Movie: 
3
Extras: 
4
Bottom Line: 
3

Squirm was one of the staples of Saturday afternoon "Creature Double Features" that ol' Big McLargehuge and I used to gather round to watch every weekend when we were cutting our teeth on the genre. Usually paired up with an equally icky “man vs nature” flick like Frogs or Kingdom of the Spiders, Squirm was one flick that really stuck with, especially in terms of gross-out factor.

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 slow 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 returns, Roger and his Pa discover that the worm wagon's cargo of over 100,000 night crawlers has 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.

Squirm is a quirky, gross, and oddly appealing hunk of 70s nature-run-amok cheese. This is a somewhat amateurish affair that was really just meant to be one big gross-out, but I think what’s really helped the film attain its cult-status (besides its appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000) is its eccentricity and intrinsically goofy nature. While the cast ranges from solid (Scardino) to terrible (just about everyone else), the real stars of the film, for me, have always been the locals Lieberman nabbed off the street to fill in bit roles (Guy in diner, Roger’s Dad, etc), which lends the film a bizarre rustic charm and sense of authenticity.

Scream Factory brings Squirm to Blu-ray as part of its Collector’s Edition series, presenting it in a wonderfully clean and crisp 1.85:1 1080p transfer. The film’s always had a sort of drab, flatly lit aesthete, with a seeming dominance of earth tones and drearily overcast skies, but the color that’s here really pops, especially Mick’s vibrant striped shirt and the assorted signage around town. Detail is also exceptional, and quite evident in the myriad close-ups of the slimy little antagonists as well as in facial features and fabrics. As one would expect from a film of its vintage, there is an omnipresent and very welcome sheen of fine cinematic grain. Paired up with a fitting and robust DTS-HD mono soundtrack, Squirm looks and sounds as good as I could ever imagined, improving on the MGM DVD release in every way.

As a part of Scream’s Collector’s series, the package comes with the requisite amount of bonus material, including a previously released commentary track by Lieberman (from the aforementioned MGM DVD), as well as a great retrospective featurette that includes new interviews with Lieberman, Scardino, and FX artist, Bill Manning. This feature covers the film’s origins, and also offers up a lot of amusing anecdotes and interesting factoids about the production. We’re also given a tour of the film’s shooting locations (with Lieberman), and a collection of trailers, TV and Radio spots, and a stills gallery. All features are presented in HD.

I was a big fan of Squirm as a kid, but I’ve grown to appreciate it even more as an adult, especially since its appearance on MST3K! It's often daft and unintentionally funny, but it's also always entertaining and charming as hell. Squirm won’t exactly have you jumping out of your seat (unless you’re terrified of six foot tall piles of undulating yarn), but that’s not what it was designed to do. Squirm is meant to make you…uh…squirm, and, cheap FX and terrible acting aside, it does this quite well. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation offers both superior sights and sounds as well as a compelling collection of bonus materials, and comes highly recommended!

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