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worm

Starring: John Ferguson, Shane O’Brien, Jes Mercer
Directed by: Doug Mallette

Once upon a time some friends got together and over a weekend they made a short film. This wasn’t just any short film, it went on win Best Film of the Nashville 48 Hour Film Project, it was even good enough to beat the short film my friends and I made that weekend. More impressively these friends turned Worm into a feature that had a great run on the festival circuit and now has found DVD distribution with Synapse Films.

The Movie

Worm is good old-fashioned science fiction. I’m not talking about spaceships and ray guns. Worm asserts a premise, science provides a solution and then it explores the impact of that solution on society. Society In this case being a love triangle between Charles, Reed and June. Charles, embodied by John Ferguson, is a socially inept, kind of annoying but somehow still slightly charming son of a handyman. As his father gets more and more ill the son of a handyman becomes the handyman. The closest thing Charles has to friends are the tenants of the apartment building that he and his dad maintain. In Charles’ mind the coolest tenant is Reed. Reed is tall, handsome, has disposable income and barely acknowledges Charles’ existence. One morning while Charles is trying to have a conversation with Reed he informs Charles about a bad light fixture in his apartment and makes an exit brushing off Charles offers to hangout. Charles totes his father’s toolbox up to Reed’s apartment where he meets a freshly showered and towel wrapped June, effortlessly portrayed by Jes Mercer. June and Charles end up spending time together as Reed is too busy for either one of them.

Okay that’s the dramatis persona now let’s get into the science fictiony part of it. Worm takes place in a world much like our own, except for the fact that no one has been able to dream for thirty years. Now there is a new drug with a unique delivery system that allows people to dream once again. The drug Fantasites looks remarkably like an earthworm and you put it in your ear and you dream. Fantasites come in two flavors, Premium and Economy. The Premium provide longer more intense dreams than the Economy and they also come in an distinctive box that gets delivered to your doorstep everyday so you not only have the chance to dream again you can show off to your neighbors that you have the taste and financial wherewithal to purchase the Premium version.

Given the premise the main characters would not have had much if any memories of real dreams but life is certainly better with Fantasites. Or at least they are sold on the idea that life is better with Fantasites. Worm shows us Fantasites commercials where the power of dreams is shown to make your waking life infinitely better. Charles is a nice guy but dangerously insecure. He latches on to Fantasites as a way to find friends and have an actual social life. When he finds out that Reed is using Fantasites he knows he has to have some. Reed of course has no problem buying Premium Fantasites for himself and June but Charles literally has to raid the cookie jar to afford the Economy. Of course it is just the Economy version and Charles becomes obsessed enough to actually steal Reed’s Premium Fantasites swapping them for his Economy ones. Charles has some fantastic dreams now that he’s on Fantasites and he is enjoying June’s company as they build a friendship and maybe something more. Reed at June’s urging even invites Charles out for a drink at a bar. Which instead of being as cool as Charles had always believed it would be is just awkward. The more time he spends with Reed and June he begins to see how big a jerk Reed actually is. Maybe there is a difference between the Premium and Economy versions because since Charles has been swapping his and Reed’s Fantasites out Reed’s life has been spiraling down. Of course it may also have something to do with new evidence coming out that Fantasites may actually be harmful to your health.

The plot spends less time exploring our need for dreams than the nature of addiction. Fantasites and dreams basically become a metaphor for drugs and addiction. Worm jumps down the rabbit hole and finds out just how far Reed, Charles and June will go for Fantasites. How long will they keep feeding an addiction that is dragging them down morally, mentally and physically? How does that addiction change the dynamics of the relationships between Charles, Reed and June?

I saw the short when it debuted at the Nashville 48 Hour Film Project and I loved it. I was also lucky enough to see the feature film play at the Nashville Film Festival. It was exciting to see a feature that evolved out of a 48 Hour Film Project Short but I remember being a little disappointed. There were parts of the movie I loved, but it just did not have the impact and focus of the original short. I don’t know if It’s just been a long time since I’ve seen the short and it’s not as an unconscious comparison now as it was then, or perhaps it’s just me but I don’t feel the same about the film now as I did then. Worm takes a premise and thoroughly explores it. I love the organic trajectory of the characters and what I identified as bloat before now just comes across as breathing room for the story. The first time I saw the movie I would have said that it was okay, now upon a second viewing I would have to say it’s pretty good, which if your wondering is just a hair under great.

7/10

The Video

The video is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen format and except for one shot at the beginning of the film it looks great. That one shot is a little grainy and there is some moiré but that was the only moiré I noticed. The rest of the film looks great. I never noticed any other digital artifacts. Being shot on a budget I’m sure that a lot of the shots were filmed under difficult lighting but the filmmakers always made it look good.

8/10

The Audio

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. It’s nothing fancy but the dialog is always clear and understandable. The mix between the dialog, score and foley is well balanced. I never noticed any distortion or any problems with the audio. There are no alternate language tracks or subtitles.

7/10

The Packaging and Bonus Features

The DVD comes in a Amaray case with striking artwork. The menus of the DVD are clever with a little earthworm icon marking your choices. The DVD includes an audio commentary that is informative and entertaining. The original short is included along with trailers and deleted scenes.

8/10

I’m really glad I had an opportunity to see Worm again. It’s not only a fun movie it’s a wonderful l reminder that perseverance and hard work can be an effective substitute for a budget.

The Review

The Movie 7/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (not an average) 8/10

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