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Squirm

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    Ian Jane
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  • Squirm



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 28th, 2014.
    Director: Jeff Lieberman
    Cast: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, Carl Dagenhart, R.A. Dow, Peter MacLean
    Year: 1976
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Written and directed by Jeff Lieberman (his feature film debut!) in 1976, Squirm takes place in a small town called Fly Creek, Georgia where, in the opening scene, a freak lighting storm sends an electrical tower crashing to the ground. This accident sends massive surges of electricity into the ground nearby, the water from the torrential downpour acting as a conduit and resulting in scores of earthworms coming up out of the ground.

    The next morning a city-slicker named Mick (Don Scardino) has arrived in town by bus from his native New York City to visit his pretty girlfriend Geri (Patricia Pearcy). He stops at the pharmacy for an egg cream on the way but is understandably disgusted when he finds a big worm in it. Before making it to Geri he runs afoul of Sheriff Jim Reston (Peter MacLean) - the law in these parts is none too keen on strangers poking around their town. Mick and Geri borrow a truck belonging to an aging bait seller named Willie Grims (Carl Dagenhart) but return it shortly after with everything intact. When it turns out that the thousands of worms he had in stock that have since gone missing he blames his son Roger (R.A. Dow). The lovebirds feel bad that they got Roger in trouble so they take him fishing but when he falls out of the boat his face is promptly devoured by worms and he runs into the woods in a state of complete panic. When Mick and Geri find some skeletons they go straight to the law but Reston doesn't believe them. Later that night a tree crash knocks out the power and as night starts to set in Fly Creek, those worms come out looking for a meal…

    Squirm is a lot of good, twisted fun that plays out with a great sense of black humor that fits in quite nicely alongside the more 'pure' moments of horror that Leiberman scatters throughout the film. While we're not supposed to take any of this all that seriously there are a few moments that do go for the gross out - the now fairly iconic attack on Roger's face being one of the best examples - that do manage to get under our skin a little bit. Of course, much of this simply has to do with little more than the 'ick' factor of seeing so many creepy-crawly earthworms all in one place but the idea behind them becoming carnivorous is a legitimately eerie one that the first time director manages to exploit this pretty effectively. The effects are all done in camera, obviously there's no CGI here, and as such huge quantities of actual worms are used in various scenes and the results of these sequences are often pretty impressive.

    As to the story itself, it does a good job of mixing up stereotypical small town paranoia with Mick's 'fish out of water' plight, adding liberal doses of comedy and horror in fairly equal doses. The pacing here is quick, the movie sets things up right from the opening scene and then, after introducing all of the principal players, hits the ground running. Though there are times where the film's low budget is apparent, this isn't so much a detriment to the movie as it is simply part of its quirky charm. The Georgia locations help to give the film an appropriately Southern feel and the cast of performers assembled to perform in front of the camera all deliver fun work - and that's really what Squirm is - fun. It's just a perfectly entertaining drive-in style horror picture made with enough care and attention to detail to matter and enough wacky ideas and effective scares to work.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Squirm arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory framed at 1.85.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The image is pretty solid overall, and while there are some minor compression artifacts present in some scenes detail and texture are definitely stronger and more impressive than the previous MGM DVD release. Colors are reproduced nicely with skin tones looking appropriately warm and lifelike. Black levels are strong and deep although some crush creeps into some of the darker scenes. Contrast looks good and there are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about. This transfer offers a pretty decent visual upgrade.

    Audio chores are well served by the disc's English language DTS-HD 2.0 mix, with optional subtitles provided in English only. No problems here at all - there's good depth to the mix and the dialogue stays clear and easy to follow. Levels are properly balanced throughout and there are no problems at all with any hiss or distortion.

    The extras on the disc start off with an audio commentary from writer/director Jeff Lieberman carried over from the previous DVD release that MGM put out years back. If you've yet to hear it, this is a very informative track that finds Lieberman covering everything from who audition for the movie to how the scenes with all of the worms were handled, what the locations were like and how the movie was received when it first played theaters.

    New to this release is a thirty-three minute long featurette entitled Digging In: The Making Of Squirm. This is made up of some interviews with Jeff Lieberman, actor Don Scardino and special effects artist Bill Milling. Liberman's input here sometimes echoes that found in the commentary but he also goes into some more details about writing the script and how he came up with some of the ideas for the movie. Scardino talks about his work in front of the camera and why he took the role in the first place while Milling offers up some interesting stories about the effects set pieces he was involved with. The disc also includes an interesting featurette in which Lieberman gives us a tour of his childhood home where he came up with the idea for the story in the first place. It runs about seven minutes and is amusingly titled Eureka! With Jeff Lieberman. When you watch it, you'll know why.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film's original theatrical trailer, a TV Spot, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. The disc also comes housed inside a cardboard slipcover and features some slick reversible cover art.

    The Final Word:

    Squirm remains a really fun, quirky horror picture and Shout! Factory has done right by it with this Blu-ray release. The film gets a nice high definition upgrade here and the inclusion of some new extras is sure to please the film's fans.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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