SQUIRM (director/writer: Jeff Lieberman; cinematographer: Joseph Mangine; editor: Brian Smedley-Aston; music: Robert Prince; cast: Don Scardino (Mick), Patricia Pearcy (Geri), R.A. Dow (Roger), Jean Sullivan (Naomi), Peter MacLean (Sheriff Reston), Fran Higgins (Alma), William Newman (Quigley), Barbara Quinn (Sheriff’s girl), Carl Dagenhart (Willie Grimes); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: George Manasse; MGM; 1976)
“Jeff Lieberman’s debut feature is a sly tongue-in-cheek horror shocker that has its squirmy moments in the mud.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Jeff Lieberman’s debut feature is a sly tongue-in-cheek horror shocker that has its squirmy moments in the mud. It’s unbelievable and schlocky, but it’s fun and even has a few honest-to-goodness scares. The rural Georgia coastal town of Fly Creek gets rocked with a thunderstorm that brings down the power lines and floods the roads, leaving the isolated town in the dark. It also causes swarms of flesh-eating worms to emerge from the ground and start attacking the citizens. The explanation given is that the electrical current wasn’t cut by the dummy power company and the juice from the electricity transmitted provides enough pop for the reinvigorated worms to emerge to terrorize the town (Don’t believe such a pseudo science explanation for a NYC sec or worry about the cheesy special effects not being scary enough, and instead just get into the wormy southern atmosphere created and I think you’ll find this flick to be solid entertainment!).
New York City boy Mick (Don Scardino) is on an antique buying binge in touristy swampland turf and while shopping around picks up local Georgia peach Geri (Patricia Pearcy) at some city show. Mick visits Geri in her home in the sticks even though the bus can’t get through the blocked roads, as the bespectacled klutzy guy with that wiseass city attitude walks the half-mile through the woods it takes to get there even though he’s out of his element on this country turf. Geri lives in a big old country house with her sexually repressed widowed mom Naomi (Jean Sullivan) and her weed smoking hep younger sis Alma (Fran Higgins). Also around is creepy mentally challenged next door neighbor Roger (R.A. Dow), who has a crush on Geri that goes unanswered. Roger works for his overbearing father Willie on his fish-and-bait worm farm. It all builds to a scene where there are millions of worms attacking Geri’s house and a human villain in the mix, someone who had his likeable moments but who has now lost his grip on reality and is about to meet his Maker in a bizarre way.
The film’s main charm isn’t necessarily when the gaze is on the swarming worms or even on the comically bigoted sheriff (Peter MacLean) eating spaghetti while ignoring a warning his town is under an attack, but on the quirky lead characters who are having one unforgettable date. Lieberman lets the story happen in a relaxed manner and the wit comes flowing as naturally as a fish to a worm.
REVIEWED ON 7/29/2005 GRADE: B +
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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