Directed by Jeff Lieberman [Other horror films: Blue Sunshine (1977), Doctor Franken (1980), Just Before Dawn (1981), Satan’s Little Helper (2004)]
With a surprisingly somber tone (though perhaps not too surprising, given both the decade it came out and the strong influence The Birds had on this), Squirm actually stands out pretty well despite the plot initially sounding somewhat silly. Worms don’t particularly bother me, but during some sequences near the end, even I felt a bit uncomfortable.
Honestly, I think a lot of things worked in this film’s favor, from the local Georgia setting (complete with some nice, southern small-town scenery), to the performances throughout, and even the special effects. What otherwise could have been a somewhat ridiculous killer worm tale instead felt at times rather depressing, so Squirm did something right.
Don Scardino makes for a somewhat interesting lead, as he doesn’t really have the typical physique of a hero, but I generally liked his character, and he seemed pretty efficient. Patricia Pearcy was also solid, despite the somewhat annoyingly strong southern accent (she was born in Texas, so it may not have been that much an exaggeration). She later appeared in a little-known slasher called Delusion (or The House Where Death Lives), and stood out there too, so it’s a shame that she’s not done much else.
Many of the others did well also, especially Jean Sullivan (her character added much of the rather dreary atmosphere to some of the scenes), R.A. Dow (this is his single role, which is amazing, as I thought he did damn good here), and Peter MacLean. Fran Higgins (who played Pearcy’s younger sister) wasn’t amazing, but as this was her sole role, and she doesn’t seem a traditional actress, I can excuse that.
The worms themselves added a lot, of course. Like I said, I’m not particularly squeamish in regards to worms, but during the final 15 minutes when they started popping out everywhere (which was pretty well-done, in my opinion), they certainly grossed me out. It felt a little fake, just the sheer amount of them during some scenes, but given they were real worms, I’ll let some of that fly. When the worms were in one of the individual’s face, under the skin, that wasn’t pleasant either.
Another small thing I wanted to mention was a scene in which a tree falls onto a house, which was apparently done in a single shot with the actors/actresses actually present. They tied it into the movie, but given the strong damage the town had taken during the previous night’s storm, to me, it felt like a rather human element thrown in, something that seemed more real, and I rather liked that.
If Squirm has any faults, and it does, I’d say that they probably could have cut the film down a bit. The first half has a lot of running around, which, while adding a sort of ‘solving a mystery’ vibe, felt somewhat dry in the way that many 70’s movies tend to feel. I did appreciate the entirely serious way the story was handled, though perhaps the opening text was a bit overboard.
While director Jeff Lieberman didn’t do a lot for the genre, the movies he did direct (including this one, Blue Sunshine, which I’ve yet to see, Just Before Dawn, and Satan’s Little Helper) certainly had some flair. I think that this film has a lot going for it, and while it didn’t leave much an impression on me the first time I saw it (probably because it was during October, and remembering individual movies during that month is always hard), it definitely did this time.