One of the most original and entertaining of the revenge-of-nature films that characterised mid-1970s American horror, Squirm begins with a pylon being downed by a thunderstorm, sending millions of volts into the wet, conductive mud, which naturally gives hundreds of thousands of its wriggly inhabitants an insatiable hunger for human flesh.
And since the accident has also inconveniently cut off the electricity to Fly Creek, Georgia, its population could hardly be more vulnerable when the sun goes down. Houses can be barricaded against most intruders, but what happens when they're small enough to get into the water supply?
Writer-director Jeff Lieberman (who also made the cult classics Blue Sunshine and Just Before Dawn) achieves a near-perfect blend of knowing wit and good old-fashioned scares, with make-up genius Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) on hand for some of the memorably disgusting special effects.
Arrow Video presents the cult horror film Squirm in its original aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. The new high-definition digital transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz. The disc is locked for Region B and North American viewers will require a player that is capable of playing back Region B content.
Again I probably shouldn’t be surprised by what we get here but I am: Arrow delivers another stunning presentation. A decent print has been used and a lot of work has gone into the restoration. The opening titles and footage that is obviously stock can look a bit worn but in general the print is in pristine condition with only a few minor blemished remaining. Colours are rich and clean, blacks are fairly pure, and details are still present in darker sequences.
The transfer is clean without any obvious manipulation. The image also looks like a projected film without any notable instances of compressions or noise, and film grain is presented, rendered in a natural manner. It’s a clean presentation, one of the better ones to come from Arrow, who have been releasing some impressive discs as of late.
The film gets a simple lossless 2-channel mono presentation. It’s easy enough to hear but it completely lacks fidelity and becomes quite edgy during some of the louder moments (those ear-piercing worm screams in particular.) Still, it’s clean without any noticeable background noise or damage.
This is actually a fairly simple release with only a couple of supplements. First is an audio commentary featuring director Jeff Lieberman that I suspect originally appeared on MGM’s own special edition DVD. It’s a decent if not overly surprising director commentary. The biggest surprises come early in the track (for me at least) where Lieberman talks about how the cast of the film could have turned out: Kim Basinger and Martin Sheen were actually supposed to play the leads, and even Sylvester Stallone was vying for one of the parts. I was also fascinated about where Lieberman borrowed some stock footage and audio from: a collapsing power line was actually taken from Ocean’s 11 and the screams of the worms were taken from Carrie. Past this the track is fairly standard with Lieberman explaining the development of the film, working with worms, and Rick Baker’s impressive effects work. He also seems pleased with the cult following the film has developed, though seems less pleased that the film was actually used for one of the last episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Overall it’s entertaining and fact filled but nothing truly special.
Unfortunately the next feature repeats some material from the commentary but is still worth a gander: a Q & A session featuring Lieberman and actor Don Scardino, which occurred after a screening of the film. After a short text preface (that cutely states “everything you are about to hear is true”) the two then talk about making the film, pointing out how they were able to pull off some of the effects, get the worms to do what they want (which involved electrocuting them, something they would never get away with today) and more. They also talk a bit about grindhouse films and Tarantino’s role in making that a “genre” unto itself, the slew of films that came out at the time about nature vs. man, and Lieberman again points out the cast the film could have had. It’s funny and charming, though if you already listened to the commentary you may find it a bit repetitive.
Kim Newman then talks about Squirm and Lieberman in the feature The Esoteric Auteur. A rather enthusiastic Newman talks for 16-minutes about Squirm, Lieberman’s other films, and other similar films from the period. He offers a great defense (if you think one is needed) for the film and talks about his favourite aspects of it, particularly how it builds up suspense. A great little addition.
The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer. A booklet is also listed as being included but I did not receive one for review.
A decent collection of supplements that are all engaging to go through, but nothing truly surprising comes out of them.
The high-definition transfer alone should make fans of the film happy, which looks better than a lot of transfers for newer films.