Movie Reviews 274 – Squirm (1976)

Squirm posterMy first encounter with the movie Squirm was not on the big screen. Nor was it late night viewing on TV. Not VHS (or Beta if you were one of those) or a DVD like the one I just watched.  Nope. My first encounter with Squirm was reading the cheap paperback novelization of the movie back the summer it first came out. While it did have a few photos on the back cover (and perhaps a few more inside) I had to imagine the horrific passages in my juvenile brain. As easily influenced as I was it was satisfying. But it’s taken me forty years to actually watch the movie.

When the horror scene got tired of the multitude of Frankenstein and Dracula gothic movies of the 60’s they turned to insects for a brief period in the mid 70’s. With movies like Phase IV (ants), It Happened at Lakewood Manor (more ants), The Swarm (killer bees) and Bug (a glut of insects in a highly underrated TV movie Movie of the Week), Squirm was part of that insect invasion of the 1970’s. Not to be confused with the “Giant Insect” invasion of the 1950’s, the 1970’s variants set aside the behemoth growth spurts and instead wreaked havoc and fear by retaining insect minuscule size but opting for volume and bloodlust as the horrifying factors.

When city boy Mick (Don Scardino) decides to visit love interest Geri (Patricia Pearcy) for a vacation at her Georgia coastal town home, his arrival coincides with a thunderous storm the night before that knocks out power to the small town of Fly Creek. With broken power lines dangling over toppled pylons, the electrical arcs release their current into the ground and the worms (and centipedes, millipedes and a few other elongated arthropods) suddenly gather and start picking off the residents.

Mick is the first to clue in but as an outsider that has already earned the ire of the local sheriff he and Geri have no chance of having the authorities believe them. Sunlight seems to keep the buggers (pun intended) at bay, but how long can they last as night approaches?

One of the coolest effects is seeing worms digging into the face of one of the characters as he writhes in pain. Very effective considering this was way before any CGI was even available. So good in fact that the character that gets them eating his face somehow doesn’t die like all the other victims but manages to keep those critters oozing from his face the better part of the movie. I didn’t mind as it kind of made up for some of the other scenes where the bulk, if not the entirety, of the worm masses were clearly fake rubber strings or perhaps even spaghetti (not spaghettini.. to thin). Another effect for which the audience anticipation is slowly is built up is the inevitable rain of worms coming through a shower spigot to land on some unsuspecting soiled subject below. The finale wherein an entire house succumbs to the slimy invaders was also pretty impressive.

For a low budget American International film, the effects and even close up video footage of a few real insects are pretty impressive and even gag inducing. I even learned that there are some real fanged worms that look pretty menacing up close. So move over giant insectoid and score one for the little guys. I’d just forego the pasta entrées while you watch.

My one regret is that my slipcover of the MGM DVD release does not feature the gloriously detailed slithering design of the movie poster shown here, opting instead for a out-of-focus still of that infested face from the movie. Wish I had that poster.

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