Blu-ray review: Squirm (1976) Jeff Lieberman's worm classic
A personal favourite from the VHS days (it's only in the last few years I sold on my old Orion tape), Squirm has had the high definition make-over and special edition treatment in the UK from the good folk at Arrow Video.
After a heavy storm leaves the tiny Georgia town of Fly Creek without power, phone lines and - thanks to the downed trees and overflowing rivers - no road in or out, a young man, Mick (Don Scardino) visits his girlfriend, Geri (Patricia Pearcey), for the first time and has more than the hostile sheriff (Peter MacLean) to deal with. The electricity being pumped into the ground from the downed lines has made the worms turn. These squishy wigglers are not the harmful sort found in your garden after a downpour, these blighters bite (and scream if you believe the skin-crawling close ups the film provides)
Between them, the pair try to find out what is happening after they discover a neighbour literally stripped down to the bone. Geri also has to deal with the unwanted attention of Roger (R.A. Dow), son of the owner of the next-door worm farm who helps out doing odd jobs. As the night falls, the whole town is soon under siege from millions of slivering worms.
Squirm is surprisingly well made, especially when you consider it was Jeff Lieberman's first film. He would then go on to make two other great cult films, Blue Sunshine and Just Before Dawn. The premise is so simple, yet very effective and considering the budget, the effects (by the soon-to-be legendary Rick Baker), while used sparingly, are incredibly effective. The infamous "worm face" particularly sending shivers down the spine of most viewers, as well as the mountains of worms (some real, some fake) that come spilling out of doorways.
While the film takes its time, it's never boring as the effective sound design and inventive camerawork is always foreshadowing the nastiness to come. It's not a masterpiece, and more creepy than scary, but it sets out to make worms even more repulsive and succeeds in being fun.
The disc comes with the usual array of extras Arrow have become famous for. A brilliant solo commentary from the director provides plenty of insight and Lieberman is very entertaining. Several of the stories he tells are repeated in the filmed Q&A, taken from a 2012 New York screening where he is joined by lead Scardino. A talking head spot with author/critic Kim Newman provides his view of the film and the 'nature-run-amok' sub-genre in general. The package is topped off with another thing Arrow do so damn well, an excellent, informative and lovely looking booklet with new writing on the film, and an interview with Lieberman with the great Calum Waddell. The film transfer is stunning, just as you'd expect, so you can buy with confidence. 8 out of 10