Squirm Blu-ray review.
A young Rick Baker was responsible for this gruesome effect.
Release Date: 23 September 2013
1976 | 15 | 93 minutes | £19.99 (double-play Blu-ray)
Distributor: Arrow Video
Director: Jeff Liebermann
Cast: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, RA Dow, Jean Sullivan, Peter MacLean
Nowadays Georgia is the Undead State, what with both The Walking Dead and Zombieland lensing there, but back in 1975 it played host to what remains the best movie ever made about killer worms.
Written and directed by Jeff Lieberman, one of those independent filmmakers whose off-kilter horrors have such personality that you can credibly call him an auteur, it follows what happens when a storm brings an electricity pylon, zapping the ground with thousands of volts. Surprisingly, rather than frying all the worms in the area, it makes ‘em mad. Which is a problem, since they’re the bitin’ kind.
Squirm takes an age to get into top gear, though while we wait there’s plenty of local colour to enjoy. Lieberman’s penchant for roping in residents means there are plenty of non-Hollywood faces, and his keen ear ensures the script is peppered with phrases like, “he’d tan your fanny”, “as happy as a bump on a log” and “it’ll make your mouth water like a horse with his nose in a sugar bag”.
Once it really gets going, there are some memorable moments, as worms (both real and artificial) pour out of shower heads and air vents and – in the film’s most impressive shot – burrow into an unfortunate fella’s face (the work of a 24-year-old Rick Baker).
Yet for all that – and the fact that Liebermann’s tongue is clearly placed in his cheek – Squirm seems a little subdued, never quite reaching the hoped-for levels of insanity; it’s surpassed in that regard by trashier When Nature Attacks flicks like Juan Piquer Simón’s silly Slugs. So though this is Liebermann’s most commercially successful film, to see him at his best hunt down 1978’s Blue Sunshine.
Picture quality is superb. Bonus-wise, the highlight is a highly professional solo commentary provided by Jeff Liebermann, in which he points out stock footage (the falling pylon is taken from Ocean’s 11), explains how the effects were achieved (bizarrely, in one case, this involved a bunch of boy scouts!), and discusses why – to his eternal regret – he passed on casting Kim Basinger in the lead role (he reasoned that noone would buy such a beauty living next door to a worm farm). A 2011 screening panel with Liebermann and his star Don Scardino (24 minutes) covers much of the same ground but remains entertaining, while the grandly-titled “Jeff Liebermann, The Esoteric Auteur: A Critical Reflection” (16 minutes) is a talking head interview with Kim Newman which covers all the bases. A trailer and a collector’s booklet complete the package.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
Read more of our DVD reviews.