SQUIRM Blu-ray Review
Written and directed by Jeff Lieberman
1976, Region A, 93 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 28th, 2014
Don Scardino as Mick
Patricia Pearcy as Geri
R.A. Dow as Roger
Jean Sullivan as Naomi
Fran Higgins as Alma
Peter Mac Lean as Sheriff Reston
William Newman as Quigley
Mick, a New York antiquer, has recently traveled to the small southern town of Fly Creek, Georgia, to woo his girl Geri. She lives with her mother and sister beside the local worm farm, home to lovestruck Roger and his domineering father. The town is currently without power, as recent storms have knocked down the electrical lines, but what nobody yet realizes is that the current has unleashed a super-charged army of flesh-eating worms. These creatures are leaving piles of skeletons in their wake and are seemingly unstoppable. Mick and Geri try to warn the community, but nobody will listen and the sheriff has an immediate dislike for city folk trying to stir up trouble. What can be done to stop these creepy crawlers and who will survive their reign of terror?!
Writer/ Director Jeff Lieberman (Just Before Dawn) delivers a counter-culture spin on the eco-thrillers that were growing in cinematic popularity in the 1970s with Squirm, a preposterous horror tale for anyone with a fear of worms. Taking inspiration from films including The Birds and The Blob, this story runs the man-against-nature angle to bizarre extremes and manages to make the little creatures frightful if only by sheer volume. There are a few moments of social commentary in Lieberman's script, but for the most part he appears content to simply make a good old -fashioned monster movie.
Don Scardino (He Knows You're Alone) stars as Mick, the New York fish-out-of-water determined to save his girl and get the hell out of this freak show of a town. Patricia Pearcy (The Goodbye Girl) does a fine job as Geri, the damsel in distress, and shares a strong chemistry with Scardino. Jean Sullivan is a bit over the top as Geri's mother, but only in a way that could be described as completely. She plays the role as though suffering a nervous breakdown and her accent is incredibly broad. Oddball actor R.A. Dow nails the role of Roger, the goony, worm-faced neighbor. Fran Higgins is entertaining as Alma, the rambunctious younger sister and I am surprised neither she nor Dow pursued more of an acting career, as both are quite impressive here. Peter Mac Lean does a fine job as the backwoods sheriff archetype and genre fans will want to keep an eye out for veteran character actor William Newman (Silver Bullet) in an early role as Mr. Quigley.
Some of the best faces in this picture are local residents that simply populate the backgrounds of bars or street scenes. Jeff Lieberman knows how to set the mood for a creepy atmospheric American Gothic horror picture by incorporating as much reality into the film as possible. Squirm is an ambitious project that features hundreds of thousands of worms, offers extreme close-ups of their mouths opening to reveal small teeth and adds a disturbing sound effect (live pigs being slaughtered) to represent their rage. In addition to incorporating the bizarre behavior of the locals, the wooded marshland locations and isolated scenery to great effect, Lieberman also starts his climactic worm invasion sequence with a terrifying stunt involving a giant tree! This really is a strange movie that is more fun than it has any right to be and if you haven't seen it before, do yourself a favor and check it out now.
Video and Audio:
Squirm is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has never looked better. Picture quality is strong and both colors and flesh tones appear natural. There is only minimal evidence of print damage and this transfer is a step up from the earlier DVD release.
The DTS-HD 2.0 track preserves the original mono mix and is quite effective. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The audio commentary with Lieberman is ported over from the MGM DVD released a few years back, and it is a welcome addition, as the man is filled with anecdotes and information about the production. The unbelievable list of rejected actors is enough to make you scratch your head with the idea of an alternate universe where some top celebrities got their start in a weird little worm movie.
Digging in: The Making of Squirm (33 minutes) features new interviews with Lieberman and lead actor Scardino reflecting on the efforts to make this film in small-town Georgia without a lot of money or experience. Both men offer heartfelt memories of the project and sincerely enjoyed making this picture. They have a lot of positive things to say about everyone involved, not because that is how these featurettes work, but because they just seem like genuinely nice guys, happy to discuss their work.
Eureka! (7 minutes) is a fun spin on the origin story. When asked how he got the idea for this film, Lieberman always answers with a tale of his brother playing with a train set controller in the backyard. For this featurette, he drives back to his old house and recreates the experiment to keep his answer fresh. Lieberman's enthusiasm for returning to his childhood home makes the whole piece awesome.
A collection of roughly two dozen photographs provide a glimpse at the different styles of international poster art used to promote Squirm.
The original trailer, a TV spot and a radio add offer a look at the marketing for the film.
Previews for additional Scream Factory releases round out the special features on this disc.