Squirm (1976), the story of the worms march to the sea

Last week there was another full moon. A Super Equinox Worm Moon! They just keep coming. I’m content with this arrangement.

They are naming the full moons regularly now. These names existed but have largely been ignored until fairly recently. Like the Worm Moon.

Surprisingly, I don’t have a problem with this. I was irritated when it became the norm to name winter storms. There’s just something about a winter storm that fits in the category of nameless horror for me. Full moons, on the other hand, deserve a quality name like Worm Moon, Blood Moon, Strawberry Moon or Harvest Moon.

Why is it a worm moon? Spring is coming, the ground is softening, and the worms are coming out to play.

I didn’t notice a moon in the 1976 film Squirm, but there were definitely worms.

Angry, electrified, blood-lusting, face-eating worms.

I remembered the feeling of this movie. They played it on TBS more than a few times after Atlanta Braves baseball games. However, before watching it this time, I had no actual recollection of the film. Just an idea of worms. I almost certainly repressed the memories to maintain my overall mental health.

Like so many of the movies of its time, this film is not as flashy as a modern horror movie. Low budget would be a high estimate.

The writer/director, Jeff Lieberman, was also responsible for writing the screenplay for The NeverEnding Story 3. So there’s that. No, I didn’t know there was a third installation of The NeverEnding Story either. I will try to forget I ever found out.

Nevertheless, the two main actors are engaging enough. The location has a feeling. You can smell the drained swamp. Like sewage and mud had offspring and those offspring were made of salty assholes and rancid fish.

There were enough laughs, though they’re often subtle.

The movie started with a very basic opening text crawl. Make no mistake, this movie is no Star Wars.

“Late in the evening on September 29, 1975, a sudden electrical storm struck a rural sea coast area of Georgia. Power lines, felled by high winds, sent hundreds of thousands of volts surging into the muddy ground, cutting off all electricity to the small, secluded town of Fly Creek. During the period that followed the storm, the citizens of Fly Creek experienced what scientists believe to be one of the most bizarre freaks of nature ever recorded.”

This came just before a creepy child’s voice sings a creepy little ditty. I transcribed this beauty for you. You can thank me later.

“I can hear the dark…if I listen hard
Watching in the garden, waiting in the yard
I can feel the dark, coming up the stair
Whispering in my keyhole
I know you’re in there
I can hear the dark, if I listen hard”

Whoa, now. Whispering in my keyhole? Settle down.

During the opening sequence, when the storm-battered “LIVE WORMS” sign at Willie’s Bait Shop fell down, I knew I was going to enjoy myself.

It’s the required attitude for this movie. If you’re going to get bogged down with everything that comprises a bad 1970s flick, then you’re going to have a bad time. Just like all those Fly Creek locals.

There is a lot to laugh at. There’s a worm in an egg cream. A guy with worms wriggling out of his face yells, “Now you’re gonna be the worm-face!” The accents. Oh, man, the accents. That moment when our scrawny ass hero takes his shirt off in the woods to make a torch (because worms hate the light – they’re like vampires!). When all the people in a bar full of hootch couldn’t manage to burn those motherfucking worms.

And crazy mama. I’m not sure she was supposed to be comic relief, but she was. Mama Sanders was sublime in her insanity and I was thankful for it.

The worms gurgled, and according to my closed captioning, they [scream], [slither], [skitter], and [screetch]. I bet you didn’t know worms could screetch. Boy howdy can they, and they are damn loud.

These are glycera, or bloodworms. Maybe, just maybe, their screetching was played up for the movie, but they’re definitely a more rugged worm than you typically see at bait shops.

We had two heroes. Mick, the city slicker boyfriend, in from New York City. And Geri, the very small town southern belle. They’re both redheads, so you know this movie is evil.

The Stereotypical Southern Sheriff was a useless dickhead. Best date ever – took his gal to Casa Roma for spaghetti and then to a cell in his jail for a little cot time – wink, wink; nudge, nudge. What woman wouldn’t jump at the chance. As you would expect, this ended with worms.

There’s a guy who runs a worm farm. Of course. His son, Roger, might as well be called Igor as the assistant to his electricity-wielding worm torturer father, Willie. Willie died off-screen, but his worm-riddled body made an appearance later. Mick needed clues and a chest cavity filled with wrigglers was definitely a clue.

Despite working with worms his whole life, including losing a thumb to enraged, electrified worms as a child, Roger wasn’t so quick to understand. Roger was busying vying with the worms for top villain status. He tried to assault Geri in a rowboat before getting a face full of worms, then crawled back to the house with his worm face to attack Mick and Geri.

You might think the hokey scene of Roger sinking into a pit of worms was his undoing, but he climbed his ass out of there, wriggled up the stairs, and went at Mick and Geri again. Roger just doesn’t know the meaning of no.

Our heroine’s mother went crazy. Comically so. She served no other purpose.

Then there’s the sister. The real heroine of this film. The pot smoking, cropped hair, wedge sandals in a muddy field wearing, funny-sarcastic chick that brightens our day. Watch out for that avalanche of worms, Alma!

All that said, the music is atrocious (is that an electronic vuvuzela?), the story is ridiculous, and the worms are a just bunch of worms. Flesh-eating or not, it’s hard to muster a shiver seeing worms on screen.

Sadly, a riot of robins did not swoop in and save the day. I would have paid money to see that version of the film. Don’t sleep on the robins, they’re a bunch of rowdy punks. I guess that’ll have to happen in Squirm 2: Slip, Slide n’ Slay.

In the end, the downed power lines got fixed and most everyone in town was dead.

And Alma survived, hidden in a clothing trunk from those beastly worms. No thanks to Mick and Geri, who left her to rot. Maybe Squirm 2 is Alma’s revenge.

Have some for yourself! Or don’t. You’ve been warned.

About I.M. Pangs

digital verbal smog creator improbablefrontiers.com
This entry was posted in Film, Film, Literature and Entertainment and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Squirm (1976), the story of the worms march to the sea

  1. Who would live in Fly Creek? (asking for a friend)

  2. chicagokat3 says:

    Lots of worms filling cavities. I don’t appreciate the connotations.

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