It’s the near future, and mankind has lost the ability to dream. But all is not lost, for a company called Fantasites has produced a solution to the problem: a small worm that you can insert through your ear and which will, on a nightly basis, give you that facility back. So far so icky, but from a premise that might have given any other filmmaker the wherewithal to explore the speculative possibilities of such a scenario, Doug Mallette (in his debut feature, an expansion of his short of the same name) has actually fashioned something that is mostly rather sweet – and that concentrates on its characters as much if not more than it does the situation.
John Ferguson plays Charles, a “socially awkward” maintenance man at a small, out of the way and somewhat rundown apartment block in Tennessee, and who considers Shane O’Brien’s Reed (who works in the news department at the local TV station, a sub-plot which brings the various strands of the story together) his best friend, despite the fact that the two of them barely speak beyond the bare necessities; Reed can’t stand him. But Reed has begun a program of Fantasites, which not only bring back the ability to dream but as a knock-on effect also promote virility. When Charles accidentally stumbles on Reed’s girlfriend June (Jes Mercer) dressed in nothing more than a towel, he determines to start taking the Fantasites he can’t afford, just as the worms’ less appealing side issues begin to be reported on the news…
There’s no writers’ credit on Worm, because the cast improvised the entire film without a script – albeit obviously not without a very good idea of what they were doing. Using news report cutaways to illustrate the situation as it affects the three protagonists, Mallette’s film actually focusses far more on its canine-enabled love triangle than it does the consequences of using Fantasites, although as it moves into its latter half that storyline does begin to increasingly influence our principals, and there are some sequences thereafter which are much more traditionally genre-inspired.
The upside of Mallette’s approach is that his characters are much more believable, well-performed and “real” than they generally are in films of a similarly limited budget. Ferguson in particular is never less than thoroughly convincing as the inept but enthusiastic Charles, although all three of the main stars are remarkably accomplished. The downside is that although Worm maintains a coherency throughout, it might have done with a little more authorial focus and a touch more humour among its satire, pathos and tragedy.
Nevertheless, Mallette’s film comes slightly cautiously but mostly highly recommended, to anyone with a strong stomach and a warm heart.
Special Features: Audio commentary / Original short film / Deleted scenes / Trailers
WORM / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DOUG MALLETTE / SCREENPLAY: / STARRING: JOHN FERGUSON, SHANE O’BRIEN, JES MERCER / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 16TH