There have been plenty of ridiculous ideas for horror movies before (I’m talking to you Sharknado), but Squirm is a special kind of ridiculous. Sure, we may be generally creeped out by worms but we never actually believe they’re capable of killing us. Nevertheless, we got a killer worm movie anyway and needless to say things get interesting.
One night a nasty storm knocks down some power lines in Fly Creek, Georgia. The power lines fall down onto some wet soil and the electrical surge (naturally) causes the underground worms to go into a homicidal frenzy. When the local police prove to be no help, a local woman (Patricia Pearcy) and her visiting tourist boyfriend (Don Scardino) team up to try to get the bottom of this strange (to say the least) phenomenon.
As undeniably ridiculous as the premise is, the effects are actually pretty good for a B movie. The definite high point is watching a group of the worms burrow inside a victim’s face (and Shout Factory seems to agree with me since this image is on Blu-Ray cover). The fact that this effect is easily the best part of the movie isn’t all that surprising given that it was done by the legendary make-up artist Rick Baker in one of his earlier works.
Of course, these admittedly impressive moments are few and far in between. As much as I enjoyed Baker’s work here, he rarely gets a chance to show it here. Almost all the deaths happen off screen to offset the limited budget and the worms don’t even start swarming until the last 15 minutes. While it’s true that Jaws did this too, they were able to get away with it because they were able to build suspense and a sense of dread (and the fact that sharks can actually be considered scary didn’t hurt either) and Spielberg remembered the rule “show don’t tell.”
It’s certainly not hard to see why the folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000 found this film so worthy of riffing. While it’s admirable that Squirm does what it can to have fun with the movie it’s making and occasionally pulls off some impressive effects for such a small budget, at the end of the day the limited budget at times becomes a little too obvious to ignore and the concept of killer worms is just too silly. Die-hard B-movie fans will probably get some enjoyment out of it but casual movie should probably try something else.
The highlight of the special features is undoubtedly the audio commentary given to us courtesy of the film’s writer/director Jeff Lieberman. While I personally thought Lieberman was a little full of himself (though that might have had something to do with him taking a shot at MST3K for riffing this movie), it’s arguably as entertaining as the film (whether you think that’s a high bar is up to you). For example, he mentions that Kim Basinger, Martin Sheen and Sylvester Stallone were all considered for parts in the movie at one point or another. It also turns out that he used so many worms for the film that New England experienced a severe shortage of Glycera fishing worms the spring after Squirm was filmed.
There’s also some semi-interesting interviews with Lieberman, lead actor Don Scardino (who has now become an Emmy winning TV director) and the special effects artist Bill Milling and Lieberman taking us on a tour of his childhood home to show how he got the inspiration for the film. Of course, there’s also the usual original theatrical trailer, TV spots, radio spots, and a still gallery.