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Title: Lair of the White Worm

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:76

One of the greatest parts of this job are to watch films I otherwise would have never thought about picking up. “Lair of the White Worm” is one of those films that I thought looked kind of interesting, but would have probably dismissed due to the fact that I never would have though Hugh Grant in a horror film would be a good thing. Boy, am I glad I did. Ken Russell is a director I have great respect for, but almost missed that he directed this one, instead basing my initial indifference to the cover art, but once I heard this was one of Russell’s offerings I was a little more enthusiastic when checking it out. Russell is one of those directors that has a sort of acquired taste to his directing style, as he prone to infusing lunacy and quirkiness to the extreme in his movies. He’s quite the eclectic, and his directing shows that he has quite a range. Sci-fi films like “Altered States”, dramas like “Crimes of Passion” and biographies like “Mahler” dot his career and I am shocked that I had never heard of “Lair of the White Worm”. Hugh Grant aside, “Lair” is a wild and cheeky horror flick that plays straight to the strengths of Russell’s love of insanity with virgin sacrifices, human transformations, human slaves, appealing outfits and hilarious references to prophecies. Yup, “Lair of the White Worm” is not going to win any Oscars this year, but it is a wild and crazy film that had my laughing hysterically the whole time.

We open the film with a young archeologist named Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi, otherwise known as the latest Dr. in “Dr. Who”) finding a giant fossil in the front yard of a bed and breakfast run by sisters Mary (Sammi Smith) and Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg). This fossil seems to have some connection with the local legend of the “D’Ampton Womr”, which was a supposed giant snake/worm creature that ravaged the countryside long ago. The giant snake like skull is immediately put on display, but not before it has attracted the attention of Lady Sylvia March (Amanda Donohoe), a sort of local legend herself. Lady March is one of those mysterious people that no one ever seems to see, but is always up on the “haunted” hill, if you know what I mean. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Lady March’s attraction to the skull is not just curiosity, but something deeper and more sinister than this little town is ready for.

There are a couple plot points going on simultaneously here, as we have both the return of Lady March to deal with (and all the chaos that her obvious evil nature is wreaking), and the story of the skull too, which includes the legend of the D’Ampton Worm who was slain so many years ago by the resident rich family. Luckily for the town the descendent of said hero is the local overseer of the town council, and James D’Ampton is ripe and ready for romping with the ladies and maybe up for a little demonic worm hunting as well (played by Hugh Grant who is hilariously campy). As the girls get close and closer to the skull they start to see visions, visions that hail back to a time when pagan worship of a snake god reigned supreme and savagery ruled the land. When one of the sisters is kidnapped by lady Sylvia for nefarious purposes, it’s up to James, Angus and the rest of the town in the know to save her before she becomes worm food. Literally.

“Lair of the White Worm” is one of those movies that you have to understand was NEVER intended to be serious. Even director Ken Russell in the commentary understands that and makes no bones about pointing it out (with his tongue firmly implanted in cheek) in the director’s commentary. The lunacy is about an 8 out of 10 with virgin sacrifices, slow motion shots of roman soldiers abusing nuns, and a human being who can turn into a snake. Not to mention Hugh Grant running around like his normal snobby self all the while smirking cheekily at the cameras as if to say “yeah, I know this is pure trash, but this is fun trash”. The main plot of the movie is fairly typical with the maiden needing rescuing and the classic heroes rescuing her from certain death, but Russell plays fast and loose with the material by adding in tons of excessive lunacy and hilariously bad sexual references that just have the audience doubled over in laughter.

Peter Capaldi is hamming it up level 9 as the Scottish archeologist, and Amanda Donohoe is hilariously over dramatic in her role as Lady March. Much like her small role in “Liar Liar” as Jim Carrey’s boss, she meows at the screen and cats it up (or snakes it up I guess) with a sort of devilish glee. Hugh Grant was the one I was really worried about, but Russell mated Grant’s normal British Snobbery with the stupidity of the giant puppet snake film with such blatant hamfistedness that it just WORKS, even though by all accounts it shouldn’t!


Rated R by the MPAA

Video :3.5stars:
“Lair of the White Worm” comes from a fairly recent print that looks reasonably well taken care of, but also tends to look a bit uneven as well. Certain shots look fantastic, with great color saturation and strong detail while others look a bit grainy and kind of smoothed over. When inside Lady March’s estate or when the CGI of the great worm and the crazy special effects come into play there is a distinct lack of detail from the superimposition and optical effects used there. While outdoors and in the estate of James D’Ampton things look a lot cleaner and less grainy from the lack of effects. Blacks are solid, but never exemplary, and there’s a little bit of banding underground. Not too much, but just enough to be noticeable. An overall good looking transfer, but the unevenness keeps it from truly excellent.

Audio :4stars:
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA track is more than capable of handling the stereo experience well, and there is very little to not like about the audio mix. There’s a nice heavy use of LFE with the films musical score, as well as some of the underground snake encounters with the rumbling of falling rocks and the like. Without surround channels, there’s not a whole lot of directionality, but the two mains do a solid job at replicating directional changes, and the dialog is clean and clear with no sounds of hissing or the like. A simple, yet clean and effective mix.

Extras :3.5stars:

• Two Audio Commentaries: Director Ken Russell, Lisi Russell, in conversation with Film Historian Matthew Melia
• 'Worm Food: The Effects of The Lair of the White Worm' featurette
• 'Cutting for Ken' an Interview with Editor Peter Davies
• 'Mary, Mary' an interview with Actress Sammi Davis
• 'Trailers from Hell' featuring Producer Dan Ireland
• Theatrical Trailers
• Still Gallery

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Lair of the White Worm” is a hilariously (and probably almost intentional) bad horror film with a fantastic amount of entertainment wrapped up in it at the same time. There’s no way you can watch the whole thing without cracking up from the obvious cheese and over acting that is done with pure, unadulterated abandonment. The trashy nature of the film doesn’t make it any less fun, and out of the two Vestron Video titles that I’ve reviewed in the last 48 hours THIS is by far the more enjoyable one (even though “Parents” is better from a strictly technical point of view). Audio and video are solid, and once again the extras on the release are more than satisfactory. Recommended for a watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Hugh Grant, Amanda Donohoe, Catherine Oxenberg
Directed by: Ken Russell
Written by: Ken Russell (Screenplay), Bram Stoker (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 31st, 2017

Buy Lair of the White Worm On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch

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