WORM (Dir- Doug Malette, USA, 2013)
Starring- John Ferguson, Jes Mercer, Shane O’Brien, Scott Ferguson, Josh Matthews
Out NOW (and cheap) from LEFT FILMS!
Having already been reviewed on this site before almost 3 years ago in fact, WORM has been on the shelf waiting for a UK DVD release and its thankfully arrived via the good folks of LEFT FILMS who have been making a habit of picking up quirky low budget genre fare and putting out on general release. WORM is another example of quirky and unusual and having little to no knowledge of the film I decided to give it a shot and see if it can bring something new to the table or end up falling off it in more ways than one.
Set in a near future where people cannot dream any more, a corporation has got around that little set back by allowing consumers to purchase nicely presented packaging which contains a genetically modified worm. The worm can be placed into the ear and dissolves on the brain allowing the user to dream brilliant fantasies. Our central character Charles (Ferguson) wants the worms, known as fantasites, to escape his mundane life. However he cannot afford the premium brand and has to settle for the economy brand. When this brand is not enough to impress one of his tenants, Reed (O’Brien), who is a premium user and worker at a news channel which is investigating the side effects of fantasites, Charles’s luck soon changes when he finds a box of premium brand left outside his apartment. With his confidence soon improved Charles wants to be friends with Reed more but only for his own desire to start a relationship with his live in girlfriend June (Mercer). However a humiliating dinner date between the three leads to Charles slipping into the fantasites more and more, neglecting real life. Once the fantasites have been found to cause more harm they are banned and our three central worm addled users becoming increasingly desperate to get their fix prompting them to buy and become involved with dubious and violent dealers that start to lead to darker and desperate consequence’s for all involved.
In its execution WORM is a film that acts almost like a drug in its layout. Starting with a first part that seems colourful, funny, vibrant and at times harmless, then slowly dipping into a more desperate part that sees people becoming more and more closed off, to eventually where things take a darker and more violent tone and the euphoria is replaced by desperation, betrayal and eventually self loathing. This is one of the elements that is most impressive of the film and Malette perfectly embraces you into this world. Admittedly whilst the concept of people not dreaming is an element that could do with a bit more explanation, the story’s drive and ambition is such that the alternate world we are in, is one that we recognise but with the added warped bonus in a TWILIGHT ZONE-esque alternative earth kind of way where worms on our brain are a part of life leading to the films second part where human intuition and scientific as well as journalistic investigation, discover the negative impact of the use of fantasites. Indeed the second part and the conclusion is the films strongest element with the illegalization of the drug leading the characters to source illegal ways of finding the fantasites.
This leads to an intense scene where Charles discovers thanks to a local drug dealer the nasty and gruesome way the fantasites are harvested and its this turning point where the films earlier charming often fantasy like elements are slowly eroded to stark reality. The first part of the film is slightly weak in parts in that we establish the characters who come across as slightly one dimensional and at times irritating. Particularly Charles who has too many social ticks that make him seem more annoying and awkward and despite some empathy being built towards him, there’s still a tendency to start seeing that he is his own fool and that he does not recognise when he is being mocked or being talked down to or when he is easily led. Though this is evident throughout the darker parts of the film where his affection for June drives him to become increasingly involved and associated with more dodgier and violent characters. Yet despite the irritations Ferguson and the other two main actors, O’Brien and Mercer, do well with what they are given and provide surprisingly decent performances to root for, particularly Charles and June, who are slowly unaware of the dire situation we the audience know they are unwillingly and willingly heading towards.
Working on a low budget Malette has managed to craft an impressive feature that does have a few rough edges and slightly flawed character portrayals but on the whole WORM is a surprisingly engaging experience and one with the possibility of developing a cult appeal and shows that the director has enough ideas and ambition to confidently handle and command your attention throughout. The only thing the film left me wondering though is why the hell would you put a live worm in your ear in the first place?