A severe storm knocks down several power lines near a small coastal Georgia town and the pulsing electricity is doing something to the worms in the surrounding area, driving them mad, making them hungry for human flesh. In the meantime, Yankee visitor Mick (Don Scardino) is down visiting his new love and local resident, Geri (Patricia Pearcy). What he doesn’t know is that the worms are turning and the townsfolks don’t much care for northern strangers. He meets up with Geri and things go pretty well until a mysterious skeleton shows up and they start digging around for answers. This inquiry eventually leads to the discovery of the deadly threat of the worms, who only mostly come out at night. They attack Roger (R.A. Dow), a local boy with a crush on Geri, and burrow into his face. These worms turn him mad and into some kind of worm-faced demon. At night, the worms attack the town en masse, eating and devouring every human they encounter. Meanwhile, back in Geri’s country house, the worms are massing and in their midst swims the deadly Worm-Faced Roger, with his glowing eyes and insane lust. Can Mick and Geri survive the long, grueling night?
Squirm is an old favorite of mine, one I revisit about twice a decade. Like all horror fans that find a special, hidden gem all on their own, I recall my first watch, a midnight showing on a local TV network. It was uncut, as far as I can remember, which is kind of remarkable. Probably the one shot of naked side-boob was excised, but I really can’t remember. The worm attacks, though, they were there in full-force. This movie scared the crap out of eleven year old Kelly and made a lasting impression. If my father ever wondered why I didn’t want to go fishing with him for a few months there, this movie was the reason why! What we’ve got is a dated but still-compelling little fright film. There’s plenty of mid-70s Southern politics, a distrust of the Outsider, and the insidious effects of closing your community off from the outside world. There’s also the “Nature Gone Amok” aspect, where we learn once again how fragile the human condition is (as we’re learning during this real-life pandemic). One little thing can change and suddenly, mankind isn’t so superior anymore, and the hunter becomes the hunted. But all of that aside, this is an entertaining, tight little film that never gets boring. The characters feel as lived-in and real as the sets and setting, and the horror, when it does hit, is gruesome and terrifying. What more can you ask for?
Squirm isn’t the kind of film that will ever be deemed some iconic classic, nor will it be worshipped as anything more than a curio cult film, but it’s got chops and anyone who is a fan of horror should give it a watch. Not every movie has to be an archetypal monument to cinema; some can just be little flicks that you enjoy, no need to explain why. Not a guilty pleasure (I don’t believe in feeling guilty about things I love) by any means but instead, a scary, chilling creature-feature that will make you wiggle while you watch. Now streaming on Shudder.