So once again we have survived.

Squirm

tn_squirmhalloweenleftoversSQUIRM is an odd duck. (note: come up with worm pun, save “odd duck” for killer duck movie, or DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING.) This killer worm movie pulls a bait and switch (get it, bait? not switch though, that’s not part of the pun) where it’s setting up the characters before it gets to the killer worm mayhem, then it starts to reel you in (reel) to what’s going on with these characters to the point where you don’t even care that it doesn’t show the worms much or kill very many people.

Not saying it’s as good, but for some reason it reminds me a little bit of PHANTASM with its low budget depiction of not-at-all-Hollywood characters uncovering weird goings-on in a small town.

mp_squirmThe main characters are Geri, a freckled mama’s girl in a small Georgia town, and Mick, her nerdy out-of-town boyfriend who somehow manages to shake everything up by coming to visit. He’s kind of a dipshit, introduced clumsily whacking other passengers with all his crap as he gets off the Greyhound. He’s got glasses and a high voice, comes across like a weenie and doesn’t have a clue how to fit in with the locals who are suspicious of city people. But at the same time you can’t deny that he’s a take charge guy. When the road is blocked by a tree he’s the only one who gets off the bus to walk the rest of the way; when they find (and then lose) a skeleton and nobody believes them he turns private investigator, figures out that there’s a freaky worm problem, triest to figure out why and find evidence so he can warn everybody of the danger, even though they hate him because they think he put the worm in the egg cream that he ordered (long story). Also they hate him because he ordered an egg cream.

Another weird character trait: he has a reputation for being into antiques, so some of the locals try to sell him antiques.

It’s funny because this character earned my respect over the course of the movie, but then toward the end he pulls a total bitch move, and I can’t even tell if the movie knows it’s a bitch move. During a dinner with Geri’s mom and sister a tree suddenly falls into the house and crushes part of it. He gets up calmly, climbs outside, looks at the bottom of the tree, and calls to Geri to come out and see the mob of worms that caused it. What he doesn’t do is help Geri’s mom up from under the debris that buried her, or even offer a courtesy “are you okay?” Even if he had x-ray vision and knew for sure that she was unharmed he should’ve done it because the mom is clearly a very traditional southern woman who has made a big deal about manners and about having a man in the house. And he seems really serious about her daughter. What the fuck is he thinking? He’s got worm on the brain. His fascination with the worm problem overrides all manly instincts.

Well, hopefully this fiasco will help Mom to realize that these three ladies have done fine without a man. They can handle it. Although he does figure out what’s up with the worms before they do.

There’s a weird situation with this character Roger, who works at his dad’s bait shop but also helps Geri’s mom with some work around the house. He’s a big muscular dude but with an exaggerated overbite and dumb hick personality, like a guy that would play the retarded rapist in an I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE rip-off. Geri takes advantage of his obvious crush on her, getting him to loan her his truck (and getting him in all kinds of trouble by losing the hundreds of dollars worth of worms in the back), then getting him to take her and Mick out on a fishing boat, using Roger for his equipment and know-how but not letting him in on what’s going on with these killer worms. He knows how to do the manly working class things that this city boy egg cream-sucking antiquer doesn’t, but it doesn’t help him get the girl he wants. So I sympathized with Roger and was impressed that he didn’t seem to be following the normal trajectory of this type of character.

But then he does. Oh well. It’s still kind of unusual because we end up with a human villain even when there are killer worms about. One of the best and most ridiculous points in the movie is when (SPOILER) the entire first floor of the house is filled with a sea of killer worms and thought-to-be-devoured Roger comes crawling out and wiggles up the stairs trying to bite Mick. I’m not sure if the worms getting inside him are controlling him or if he just decided to adopt their killer worm ways for himself. You know, he figured humans were outnumbered and stealing his girl anyway so he might as well switch to the winning team.

Another weird touch in the movie is a trick used at the beginning and again later on, where it uses close up photography of actual blood worms (or whatever they are) opening their mouths, and it superimposes a weird metal screeching type sound so it seems like they’re screaming. I didn’t take this as a literal depiction of the worms screaming (there’s never a “what is that sound?” scene) but sort of an arty musical montage to show that these things are creepy.

They’re not intelligent worms, by the way. They’re not conspiring to get the neighborhood back from the humans. They’re just freaking out because of electricity going into the ground. There’s a simple explanation for all this.

mp_squirmsuper8Most of these actors did not go on to do many movies, but Don Scardino, who played Mick, did a bunch of soap operas and then became a prolific TV director. These days he directs many episodes of 30 Rock. Writer/director Jeff Lieberman later did JUST BEFORE DAWN, which I liked. His most recent theatrical release was a really ridiculous one in 2004 called SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER. I never reviewed that but it’s about this masked killer who goes on a rampage on Halloween and a dumb little kid helps him because he thinks it’s pretend and it reminds him of a video game he loves. It’s such a stupid premise but made pretty hilarious by the kid’s giggly enthusiasm.

I know a guy who met Lieberman once. This guy happens to be a huge nerd for the Mystery Scientist show where the wiseass robot puppets are really rude and won’t stop talking during the movie. I guess SQUIRM was made fun of on that show, so when my buddy met Lieberman it was a unique opportunity to ask the director of a Mystery Scienced movie what he felt about that. It turned out he did not feel good about it at all. On the DVD commentary Lieberman says he feels that those puppets mp_41yodidn’t understand the movie and were “making fun of” things that were already intended to be funny, like that DTV comedy that “parodies” all the Judd Apatow comedies. But I don’t know, I guess you gotta figure that Cookie Monster can’t even really eat a cookie, I’m not sure why I would expect these puppets to have a nuanced appreciation of the low budget movies they watched.

I always wondered why somebody didn’t shush these guys or at least go get an usher to get those fuckin robots to shut the hell up, but my friend explained to me that they’re supposed to be on an orbiting prison planet, like ALIEN 3, and watching “bad” movies is their punishment. I forget what their bid was for but I think he said it was sort of tangentally related to child sex trafficking or something like that. In the last episode they were busted out of prison by the space CIA for a black ops mission where their film knowledge would come in handy, like the English film critic in INGLOURIOUS BASTARDS. But they kept cracking wise so the mercenaries they were working with just got sick of it and melted them down to make new helmets. They were never able to save the space president who ended up being executed by militants and the universe went conservative for like 400 years just because of these asshole robots not knowing when to shut their stupid gumball machine yaps. Apparently a very powerful and provocative episode though.

I didn’t think SQUIRM was exactly a comedy, but not laugh-at-able either. It’s an odd, surprisingly compelling set of characters who get attacked by a bunch of worms a couple times. You’ll be hooked.

improve or delete pun ending

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, November 13th, 2010 at 8:21 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

32 Responses to “Squirm”

  1. At first, the plot just inches along. . .

    Most of the actors ended up burying their careers in the dirt after this one. . .

    This film didn’t make enough money to merit having sex with itself and reproducing a sequel. . .

  2. caruso_stalker217

    November 13th, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    I never understood this “Mystery Science Theater 3000” thing.

  3. I have a childhood memory of being traumatized by this on late night cable TV in the early 80’s. My parents were watching it and I peered into the room just as that guy came out of the lake with the worms eating into his face. Ah, memories.

  4. I just watched this like a month ago and this review is totally dead on. I don’t know how the movie ended up making me like the little twerp with his egg-creams, but it was a neat trick. This movie was not afraid to let loose with the weird touches.

  5. MST 3000 gets a lot of hate these days, but people seem to forget that the creators” roast” these type of movies because they love them.

    Most of the movies they go over would probably be completley forgotten if not for the puppets. Coleman Francis anyone? I’ve seen Skydivers more than six times, and it gets better each time. Were some of their roasts pretty harsh? Yes, but there was never a holier than thou air to the show.

    Just saying. The puppets provided me an education I would’ve otherwise never had.

  6. Glad to see Don’t Torture a Duckling is on the backlog…

  7. To be fair, it’s not a very good episode of MST3K, relatively speaking.

  8. I don’t understand the hate for MST3K. Most of the movies they watched would have never been seen again if not roasted by them. And frankly– they are funny. It’s the only criteria for that type of show. The entire conceit of the show works because the movies they make fun of are bad. Look at some of the RiffTrax they have done recently… “Wicker Man”, “Battlefield Earth”, “The Happening” and “Twilight” are all hilarious because the movies are really bad. When they try to do something like “The Dark Knight”, it falls flat.

    So lay off the hate. These guys are funny when the movie is a bad enough. And “Squirm” is definitely bad enough.

  9. The hate towards MST3K may come from the fact, that it (although unwillingly) created a whole generation of douchebags, who think that anybody who is with them in the movie theatre would care for their lame attempts to heckle the movie.
    Plus: Despite often being seriously funny, MST3K relied imo way too often on “LOL, this 50 years old movie has bad special effects” and this is movie related douchebaggery of the lowest kind and I know I’m not the only one who is pissed off by that.

  10. MST3K doesn’t get all that much hate from my experience, in fact I’d say it almost seems sarcosanct on the internet. But I agree that the problem people have with it is probably mainly the way it’s helped shape the behaviour and attitudes of many moviegoers. It’s the progenitor of a zillion IMBD etc. posts by jock types calling smugly calling something “so bad it’s good!!!” or “the best type of _un_intentional comedy!”, even though there’s a pretty good chance what they’re talking about was meant to be funny in the first place. I also think it quite possibly helped give way to the mentality where everything is either a breathtaking masterpiece (the appreciation of which is a sign of your own intelligence) or a horrendous crime to humanity, on par with rape and murder (the enjoyment of which, unless it’s “ironic” or “accompanied by your own commentary”, is a surefire sign of stupidity). It’s not fair to damn a show on these grounds, but it’s hard not to be influenced by it.

    On a personal level though, I have to admit I’ve never found what I’ve seen of it funny. I heard about the show when I was 13 and fell in love with the idea, but didn’t have any access to it at the time. I finally got to see some when I was about 17 and just didn’t laugh. Maybe it’s humour that doesn’t travel well?

  11. I would never say “This is funny and you must love it or die!”… Frankly, I see why someone might not connect to MST3K. But to act like you’re above it all and it offends you? Grow up. If the movies you love are that good, they cannot fall prey to the scorn (see: The Dark Knight). The rest are fair game…

  12. It doesn’t offend me and I don’t consider myself above it. I don’t like some of the attitudes which I _believe_ it _may_ have influenced (partly) but I don’t wish to and can’t agrue against anyone enjoying the actual show.

  13. caruso_stalker217

    November 14th, 2010 at 7:05 am

    I don’t care for it because I don’t think it’s funny.

  14. I bet those MST3K guys are more adept at delivering worm puns than this crowd.

  15. I seriously doubt MST3K is responsible for inspiring a “generation of douchebags” who talk during movies. To my experience, it’s always been loud, frat boy types, and/or the obnoxious redneck family. And if I may be discrimnatory for a second, these types of people wouldn’t be caught dead watching a puppet show.

    I’m gonna make an assumption and say that when Casablanca first played, there was some jackass in the theater who was obnoxious. Why do you think they have ushers. This reminds me of the people who swear there were no gay people before the sixties, and that “_____” is responsible for turning a generation into fags (i’m gay, and i’ve heard this a million times).

    Either way, let’s celebrate that vern has given us another good review, yea?

    Thanks vern :)
    There’ve always been obnoxious people.

  16. I really do not believe MST3K had any residual effect on the way people behave in the movie theaters. The show wasn’t that far reaching that it would create a whole sub genre of moviegoer. I believe these type of people already existed well before the show was created.

    I also believe the backlash that you see on the internet is from those young geeks that never watched the show but some how grew up into believing that making fun of movies is sacreligious because they would be hard pressed to ever admit what they’re watching sucks to begin with. You know, people like Harry Knowles.

    I like how the solution to the movie Squirm is to just get as high as you can and wait it out and eventually it’ll be over.

    Also, Satan’s Little Helper is one of the absolute worst movies I’ve ever sat through. It’s very rare that I want to see everybody die including the killer. It’s amazing just how stupid everybody is in this film.

  17. Whats up with these puns Vern? Some kind of tribute to the retirement of Gene Shalit?

  18. Amen, Lawrence!

  19. “I like how the solution to the movie Squirm is to just get as high as you can and wait it out and eventually it’ll be over.”

    Wait, is that how they escape the worms, or is this how you got through the movie?

  20. I really like MST3K, I just watched my favorite one two nights ago: Mitchell starring Joe Don Baker. It makes me laugh when they point out how sometimes the actors look like other, more famous people, and I like Tom Servo’s songs that often go along with the soundtrack.
    On watching Rifftrax, I think I do tend to enjoy the criticisms of the movies more, because it feels good to think that someone else noticed them, especially if it’s a film that’s been well-received. I hadn’t thought about whether this has contributed to polarization in amateur assessments of movies. For my part, I don’t think I’ve changed my opinion of a film by seeing it with Rifftrax after seeing it without. For instance, I thought Avatar had some strengths mixed with some silliness, both before and after watching it. I agree the best movies for the riffing format are ones that are completely self-serious, but don’t earn the seriousness by including ridiculous elements.

  21. Bryan, I was referring to getting high up in the air, not stoned. lol

    Also, I’ve never had anybody here ever agree with me and give me an amen. That’s awesome.

  22. fun fact: I live not too far from where Squirm was filed

    I also live pretty close to the bridge where Burt Reynolds was busted in The Longest Yard, however they tore that bridge down years ago

  23. To chime in on MST3K – sometimes they improve the movie you’re
    watching (for example, OVERDRAWN AT THE MEMORY BANK – a movie
    no-one in their right mind would watch for cinematic pleasure – is a great
    time with the riffing over the top of it).

    Just saying.

  24. FINGALLLLLL!

  25. Fingal. Dingal.

  26. I’m a huge fan of MST3K and even I get that some of the movies they make fun of aren’t that deserving of the ridicule. (Best example – DANGER:DIABOLIK) However, the charm to it all lies much in the identification we have of sitting around with some friends and talking shit back to the screen during even the most sacred of movies. The creators of the show clearly love bad movies as much as they love good movies, and have spent so much time with these flicks that they can riff on them at any given moment, just like we could with any hundred of filsm we’ve watched ad nauseum as movie geeks.

    This just echoes the sentiment that people were talking back to movies way before Joel, Mike, Tom Servo and Crrrooowww!!! came along.

    For sure they helped give a real identity to the careers of people like Coleman Francis and Bert I Gordon, even giving some love to some of the weirder, more ambitious films they made, i.e. The Skydivers for Francis and Tormented for Gordon.

  27. Anthony – sorry your post was M.I.A. there for a little bit. I think when some moron was flooding the comments with bullshit I set it so anything that said “fag” in it had to be approved. Which means this post will also have to be approved I guess. Man, I hope I get approved.

  28. It’s all good vern. I figured that was why, and it actually makes me happy that your page keeps us from putting up with idiots like that. Unlike AICN. Which is why I gave up reading the talkbacks.

    Btw, I just ordered in all your books for the college bookstore I work at. So here’s hoping I helped you afford to publish more in the future!

  29. To Wendy’s!

  30. Satan’s Little Helper had a theatrical release?! Someone got fired over that.

  31. I’m sorry, but for my money Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the funniest fucking tv show ever made

    I don’t support talking in theaters however

  32. “…tangentally related to child sex trafficking or something like that…” One of the funniest meanderings of any review, Vern! Nice one!

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