Saturday, November 22, 2014

SQUIRM (1976) Blu-ray review

Squirm (1976) d. Jeff Lieberman (USA)

A downed power transformer in the small backwater town of Fly Creek, Georgia, sends thousands of volts of electricity into the wet ground and thousands of agitated biting Glycera worms to the surface. From this somewhat farfetched premise, writer/director Lieberman wrings a laudable amount of suspense, aided in no small part by his no-name cast who inhabit empathetic, intelligent, and resourceful characters worth rooting for.

Following Hitchcock’s The Birds playbook, Lieberman spends the first act familiarizing us with the surroundings and likeable protagonists Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcey, and Fran Higgins, then isolates them to contend with the annelidic terror minus outside help. (Legend-in-the-making Rick Baker created the memorable worm-face effect for R.A. Dow’s unfortunate bait farmer.)

Now making its Blu-ray debut via Shout! Factory, fans are finally treated to the lively and engaging audio commentary that was clearly recorded for the 2003 MGM DVD release that, somehow, never made it onto the disc! In it, Lieberman, in his distinctive New Yawk honk, points out numerous flubs and flaws, but is also clearly proud of what he and his able crew were able to pull off on a slim budget (such as hiding a troop of cub scouts under a tarp covered with rubber worms and telling them to move up and down to create an undulating onscreen sea of slimy terror.

He also mentions alternate casting choices that, in hindsight, might have brought his film more visibility, citing Martin Sheen's original involvement before he exited the project, and Kim Basinger and Sylvester Stallone's interest in playing the roles ultimately inhabited by Pearcey and Dow. (Lieberman says he could never imagine the too-lovely-for-words Basinger living next to a worm farm, and that Stallone had just too urban a vibe.)

Other extras include on-camera interviews with Lieberman and Scardino (the latter now a successful TV director and producer), as well as solo featurette with Lieberman discussion the story's origins. All in all, it's a terrific hi-def love letter to the little creature feature that could.

Squirm is now available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory and can be ordered HERE.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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