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Worm (UK DVD)

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Worm

Worm UK DVD SleeveStarring John Ferguson, Jes Mercer, Shane O’Brien

Directed by Doug Mallette

Distributed by Left Films


It’s the future, and humanity has lost the ability to dream. Like some deadbeat dad, it just upped and left us one day… but now there’s a solution: a product called Fantasites.

Marketed as a totally friendly parasite, Fantasites are worms which users place in their ears before bed, resulting in wondrous, engaging dreams of various levels of vividness – depending, of course, on whether you’ve dished out enough cash for the “premium” variety.

Getting by in this brave new world is socially awkward and anxious Charles (Ferguson), who works as a handyman in his father’s tenement. After striking up a conversation with his neighbour, Reed (O’Brien), Charles quickly becomes infatuated with Reed’s kindly girlfriend, June (Mercer).

Being a little bit weird as he is, Charles skirts around his inability to afford the premium Fantasites by covertly swapping his basic home deliveries with Reed’s higher grade ones – an issue that, over time, begins to cause obvious friction in Reed and June’s relationship.

When Charles discovers that Reed is, in fact, a cheating asshole, his attempts to ingratiate and enamour himself with June step up a notch – but before things in this neurotic love triangle can come to a head, something different happens…

Through TV interview snippets, we learn how the Fantasite worms operate – they consume small portions of the brain and then defecate within it, their faeces being the element that contributes to the hugely stimulating dream worlds they create. Later, they’re supposed to dissolve and be flushed away by the body.

Yes, folks. The worms shit in our brains, and we love it.

But there’s a problem… when it’s discovered that the worms are not dissolving as expected, and mid-term effects of use become publicly apparent – hallucinations, weak bladder and eventually brain damage and death – the super-popular product is pulled from the market… but leaves many a dedicated addict behind.

This is when Worm truly takes a turn for the interesting, as the post-Fantasite world surrounding our core duo quickly becomes ravaged by desperation and addiction – populated by people (June and Reed included) who are fully aware of the dangers posed by the parasites, but remain nonetheless hopelessly obsessed with (in a rather blunt metaphor) literally turning their brains to shit.

Worse still, Charles finds himself pulled into a ruthless gang alongside Reed – one whose members attack and kill people for their worms, smashing open heads and pulling the parasites straight from the host’s oozing gray matter for later reuse and resale on the black market.

But mild-mannered Charles can’t handle it, and as his horror at the situation grows ever stronger, he must figure out a way to abscond with June and escape from the clutches of not only Reed, but the pitiless gang he’s so hopelessly entangled in.

As a film, Worm is a game of two halves. The first closely mirrors the original award-winning short that inspired the feature, yet it’s also the weaker part. It’s hard to fully empathise with Charles’ weird behaviour, especially the gamut of needy, forced social interactions he manufactures in between his remorseless theft of Reed and June’s Fantasites.

The other two don’t fare particularly well either, with Reed being a predominantly archetypal douche bro. A few nicely placed character moments help alleviate this somewhat – see, for example, a scene which demonstrates that Charles’ “premium” dream experience is simply being in a lively, accepting social situation with his neighbours. It really speaks a lot to his character and personal issues, even if it doesn’t manage to make him likeable – and this is reflective of much of the character experience across the board, here.

When the second half takes a sharp dip into the horrors of drug addiction, physical deterioration and underground narcotics gangs, it works to the film’s strength and makes for a very uncomfortable time. Yet it struggles to stay entirely gripping due to a central trio that refuse to acknowledge their completely broken social dynamic – not so much in a wilfully ignorant manner (which would be fine), but more out of a complete lack of self awareness.

Still, while that may lessen the drama, it doesn’t particularly lessen the horror or grim vision of the film – both of which prove a solid hook once the nastiness is revealed. The cast, while less than exceptional and rarely feeling like they truly inhabit their characters, do deliver solid effort across the board – it would be disingenuous to tear them down, as they most certainly aren’t lacking in ability.

Visually, Worm takes a few adventurous and playful turns with the inclusion of some hilarious TV ads and entertaining dream sequences, but mostly relies on solid – if unimpressive – setups featuring plenty of transitional focus pulling. Mallette certainly has a cinematic eye, but makes few daring decisions throughout.

And that’s pretty much indicative of where Worm tends to sit: Middle-of-the-road, its positives neatly counterbalanced by the negatives. If it deserves kudos for anything, it’s for going down some very unexpectedly dark paths in the latter stages and for displaying drug-addled relationships with stark authenticity.

Definitely worth a watch, Worm is a solid swing at a Cronenbergian concept that doesn’t manage to take it all the way home, but deserves an appreciative nod for effort.

Left Films’ UK DVD release of Worm also sports the original short film (which actually goes a bit more over-the-top with its illustration of the “premium” Fantasites experience), 10 minutes of deleted scenes and an insightful commentary with director Doug Mallette, digital effects co-ordinator Julian Herrera and producers Jennifer Bonior and Jeremy Pearce.

Special features:

  • Worm original short film
  • Trailers
  • Deleted scenes
  • Commentary
  • Film
  • Special Features
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User Rating 3.27 (15 votes)

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