Sunday, November 27, 2011

376) Squirm (1976)

376) Squirm (1976) Dir: Jeff Lieberman Date Released: July 30, 1976 Date Seen: September 22, 2011 Rating: 2.25/5

This piece was also killed. This may seem like a trend. But, well, shut up.

Initially, you almost want Squirm to work in spite of itself. The creepy lullaby that the film begins with is surprisingly effective and the location that writer/director Jeff Lieberman’s killer worm flick is set in is equally spooky. The rest of the film—eh, not so much. Squirm has an all right set-up but Lieberman’s got none of the ideas or the skills needed to follow through on them. His film just looks cheap and stupid in the end, particularly when you’re watching a mass of rubber grub worms shrink back whenever fire is around. In other words, Squirm deserves the lambasting that Mike Nelson and his robots gave it on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But I kinda wish it hadn’t.

The set-up’s ridiculous but simple enough: a young Southern belle (Patricia Pearcy) and her non-threatening pen pal (Don Scardino) try to save the buckteeth town of Fly Creek from being overrun by man-eating worms. Yes, worms, the source of the town’s industry (for bait, see) have been electrified by fallen power lines and turned into, uh, evil monsters. Now they’re slowly clogging drains and burrowing under people’s skin and eating the flesh clean off their bones.

Sounds like stupid fun, right? Well, it would have been if Lieberman actually knew what he was doing. Never mind the fact that he’s working on a aglet-less shoestring-budget: Lieberman’s actors, dialogue and directing are for shit. The film takes a fatally stoopid turn when it finally tries to become a full-on southern gothic monster movie. Watching the deranged boy next door (R.A. Dow) get infested with worms and then try to kill the Southern belle’s beau is pure chintz. Oh well, at least the box art looks cool.


  1. "Squirm deserves the lambasting that Mike Nelson and his robots gave it on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But I kinda wish it hadn’t."

    I know what you mean, because I feel the same way about a few of the MST3K "classics"; there's often a very tiny germ of an original idea in the likes of Manos, Incredibly Strange Creatures, Red Zone Cuba, and even The Creeping Terror, which makes me think, "Gee, if only this filmmakers had half an idea what they were doing, they might have built that idea into something interesting, as opposed to, oh, Bay's Transformers movies, where there isn't the slightest spark of original life, for all the infinite money and technical expertise on hand.

  2. Yeah. The reason this piece was killed was because I ultimately wasn't saying the film was so bad it's good.

  3. Oh. Wow. Sort-of makes you wonder why they bother actually asking a critic to have an opinion.

  4. In this specific case, it makes sense: it's a rep cinema capsule so we're supposed to be recommending films in some way.

    But yeah, in down times like these, I do wonder how I could make myself more amenable to editors. I'm too young, I'm too immature so I require too many edits. It's not the other way around: every editor is different so they all have different buttons. But to be honest, I know I've worked on making my writing more accessible. Which isn't necessarily to say that I've succeeded 100%.

    But I'm working on it.

    So at this point, all I can think regarding that anyone that doesn't want to work with me is either I learned too slowly on my feet or I just don't have anything they think is worth selling. It's a discouraging time to be a freelancer right now, I'll tell you that. Outlets are slashing budgets, outlets are disappearing, outlets don't want to work with new's not easy. Feh. Sorry for unloading like this.

  5. No, actually I'm very interested. You're a critic I admire and I'm interested in the problem of trying how we transfer our personal and niche tastes over to more mainstream criticism without surgically removing our critical standards. I keep thinking about moving more into professional critical territory but I get so many discouraging signs, as well as the fact that as an ever-struggling fiction writer I do wrestle with a personal hang-up that I am in some ways betraying the team by writing as a critic. I understand about the rep cinema requirements as I had similar experiences when writing up blurb pieces for Fandor.