"Chase your dreams".
We open with a TV news article which plays a little more like a commercial, akin to those public service announcements that punctuated ROBOCOP so well. Here, we get reporter Posey (Sarah Shoemaker) explaining how mankind suddenly, inexplicably, stopped dreaming three decades earlier. This led to darkness, despair and violence. But, she tells us, there is now hope: "Now out of the laboratory and into stores near you", new shops are popping up in select areas throughout America, offering the chance for people to dream again (or, if you're lucky enough to be under 30, for the first ever time). The stores are named after their product - Fantasites - and sell a man-made parasite in worm form which, when inserted into the ear, promises to bring sweet dreams to its human owner. There are different types of worm: the more expensive they are to buy, the better your experience promises to be.
Jaded loner Charles (John Ferguson) is watching this programme and is instantly intrigued. He races across his industrial hometown on his pedal bike to the nearest Fantasites store. Alas, he has no money and so is duly turned away.
But an opportunity for Charles to experience this new phenomenon soon presents itself...
He lives in an apartment block supervised by his father (real-life dad Joseph S Ferguson). When neighbouring tenant Reed (Shane O'Brien) mentions in passing that some maintenance work needs doing in his apartment, Charles decides to carry out the job himself. Reed has everything the affable Charles doesn't: a well-paying job, good-looking partner June (Jes Mercer) - and a subscription to a regular supply of premium-level Fantasites.
While performing work in Reed's apartment, Charles meets June. He's immediately smitten by her. Having saved up his pennies only to discover that the economy-level Fantasites he can afford don't offer much in the way of escapism, he decides no harm would be done by intercepting Reed's mail order delivery of premium worms and swapping his cheap variants with his neighbour's more expensive treats.
Of course, Charles has a whale of time forging a wonderful fantasy life where June falls in love with him and he's suddenly everyone's friend. Reed, meanwhile, suffers badly from bad trips as the economy worms fail to deliver the standard of dreams he's grown accustomed to.
In the meantime, reports of iffy side-effects being experienced by Fantasite users have prompted some to call for the government to ban them...
WORM looks great. Considering this crowd-funded effort had an apparent budget of $10,000.00, the production values are excellent. Digital effects work well for the most part; the high-def polish of the widescreen photography is treated to a nicely cinematic sheen; performances are all solid and confident; moments of practical gore are inventive and surprising at every turn.
The premise clearly serves as an allegory for America's drug problem and is similar to BRAIN DAMAGE in this regard. There are also themes of free thinking, making do with what you've been given, and the consequences of living in a nanny state.
Unfortunately the bulk of the film's dialogue was improvised (cast members were given loose scenarios to work with) and this leads to uneven pacing, awkward moments of water-treading and some questionable dialogue. Still, when it works, WORM is both funny and intriguing - and even manages to elicit some tension during its darker final act.
Left Films bring WORM to UK DVD in its uncut variant, looking very healthy indeed in a clean and sharp 16x9 transfer which respects the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Blacks are solid, colours are true, detail is fine. Clearly shot in HD, WORM looks pretty tremendous here.
English audio comes in a dependable 2.0 mix which delivers the goods without dropping the ball at any juncture.
Bonus features are ported across from Synapse's 2014 US DVD.
These commence with playful audio commentary track from Mallette, digital effects artist Julian Herrera, and co-producers/co-stars Jennifer Bonoir and Jeremy Pearce. This is an enjoyable, fact-filled listen with its fair share of mirth throughout. However, I found myself rewinding quite frequently because these people speak so fucking quickly!
Next we get 10 minutes of largely inconsequential - but handsomely shot - deleted scenes.
More intriguing is the inclusion of the original 7-minute short film that WORM was developed from. It's an amusing, inventive affair, utilising the same three leads and carrying the same title. Essentially, it's WORM in a nutshell.
We also get two original trailers for the film.
On top of the above, this disc is defaulted to open with trailers for a trio of other titles available from Left Films: SCARS, ONUS and THE HORROR NETWORK. You can also view these via the extras menu, along with previews for DEMON HUNTER, CONSUMPTION and THE DEVIL'S WOODS.
WORM is an attractive and thought-provoking sci-fi/comedy/horror hybrid which sadly comes undone a few times thanks to its decision to have the actors improvise their dialogue. It feels unfocused at times as a result. But the good outweighs the bad, making the film worth a look.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Left Films|