Horror director Jeff Liebermann made his debut with this rather unusual horror movie about worms with a taste for human flesh. Squirm is set in the fictional town of Fly Creek and the movie begins with a terrible storm that sends an electricity pylon crashing to the ground, where the high voltage electricity goes to earth and juices up the local worm population. All this new power goes straight to the worms’ heads, gives them a nasty new attitude, and causes them
to go on a killing spree. Killer Worms! It doesn’t sound all that terrifying until you discover that this species of worm has teeth.
The two main characters in Squirm are Geri Sanders and her boyfriend Mick (Patricia Pearcy and Don Scardino). Geri has lived in Fly Creek all her life, but Mick is from New York. They met at an antiques show and Mick has taken a couple of weeks off work so that he can visit Geri. He arrives at Fly Creek the morning after the storm and one of the first things he does is to get on the wrong side of the Sheriff, who is easily the biggest jerk in town. Mick visits the local diner and orders an egg cream. When he finds a worm in the bottom of his glass, he is so shocked that he spills his drink and causes quite a commotion. Sherriff Reston happens to be in the diner, instantly pegs Mick as a troublemaker, and accuses him of placing the worm there himself.
Later the same day, Mick and Geri discover a skeleton and rush to get Reston, but when they return with him the skeleton has vanished and, once again, the sheriff accuses Mick of being a troublemaker. Geri tries to intervene and back up Mick’s story, but the Sheriff refuses to listen.
Geri and Mick have a further unfortunate encounter with the sheriff when they try and tell him worms are killing people. The sheriff is having lunch at the time, with a lady that is obviously not his wife. The two of them are tucking into a couple of big plates of spaghetti, so worms are probably the last thing either of them wants to think about. Reston tells Mick that he is giving him a head start and will be coming after him as soon as he has finished his meal. The guy is all talk and no action though—when it comes to his job anyway. The next time the viewer sees him, the sheriff and his date are bunked up in one of the cells; so when the worms arrive in force he is caught with his pants down. Worm fodder? You bet and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Roger Grimes is also an important character in the story. He’s Geri’s neighbor and he works on his father’s worm farm. Roger is infatuated with Geri and he is not impressed to learn she has a new beau, but he treats his love rival with respect. That changes when he gets a face full of worms. After that he turns ugly and spends the rest of the movie trying to kill Mick so that he can take Geri for himself.
The special effects in Squirm are okay for a movie from the 70s, but poor by modern standards. The scenes that show layer upon layer of writhing worms are particularly bad. The worms resemble strips of wire or plastic and instead of squirming they appear to be being tossed by some hidden mechanism beneath them. The close up shots of individual worms work very well indeed though, and it seems probable that they are close ups of real sandworms. Real sandworms do have teeth and if these are close ups of the real thing I wouldn’t want to go digging for them—nasty!
I would be surprised if viewers found anything to shock them in Squirm. If there was any foul language I don’t remember hearing it and the closest thing to a nude scene is when Geri tries to run a bath and nearly gets doused with worms instead. The goriest scene is probably when Mick finds the corpse of Roger’s father. Hearing a strange noise coming from the body, Mick opens up the old man’s shirt and discovers an army of worms feasting on Mr Grimes’ organs. It’s not the sort of thing I’d enjoy seeing if I were in the middle of my lunch, but, once again, it is tame by modern standards.
Squirm, with its electricity antagonized killer worms, is not a particularly believable story, but the cast made a valiant effort and managed to produce an entertaining movie that may cause a few timid fishermen to think twice the next time they delve into their bait box for a worm and think about putting it on a hook. However, if man versus animal movies are your thing, I can highly recommend the Australian horror movie Long Weekend (1978). It’s infinitely more believable and a much better movie altogether.