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August 20, 2014


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Doug Mallette - 2013
Synapse Films Region 0 DVD

Talk about support for independent filmmaking, Synapse Films has come through in a big way. Filmed in "Middle Tennessee" by a gang from Watkins College in Nashville, for a stated budget of almost $10,000, Worm is about as independent as a film can be. At the very least, this film may prove encouraging to those who think a degree from one of the better known universities and / or a budget of at least six figures, if not seven, is required for that first step in cinematic glory.

The film takes place in an unspecified near future where people apparently just completely go blank when they sleep. A new product allows people to dream, the kind that offer refreshing sleep, in the form of worms that are offered in jars with daily delivery. The worm are placed in the ear, and induce an immediate, dream filled sleep. And yeah, the premise is creepy, and you can guess that nothing good is going to come out of having a live worm, actually bunches of them, trolling around in your noggin.

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Socially inept Charles, the son of the apartment maintenance guy, tries to ingratiate himself with one of the residents, Reed. Trying to get at Reed's stash of worms under the pretense of fixing a light, Charles meets June, Reed's girlfriend. Not having much money, Charles gets the lower priced dream worms which he switches with Reed's higher priced variety. Charles also starts having dreams of being with June, with disastrous consequences in real life.

One might consider Worm something of a parable about the various "miracle cures" that turn out to have unforeseen, and deadly consequences. I don't know if this was intentional, but the basic premise of Worm reminded me of David Cronenberg's Shivers. The big difference is that Mallette's worms are suppose to be benign, so much so, that there is a cartoon mascot for the company, Fantasites, as well as children's masks and a stuffed Fantasites worm doll.

The DVD comes with a commentary track by Mallette with three members of the production team. One of the more interesting aspects is to know that while the basic story structure was planned out, the dialogue was improvised by the cast. For novice filmmakers, the commentary may prove useful in having an idea of what to watch for when making a film on an extremely limited budget, especially something like Worm that makes use of a few special effects. In some instances, the limited funding is a hindrance, as shown by a dependance on available light. The DVD also includes the original short film that inspired the feature.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 20, 2014 07:39 AM