Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Netflix for the Poor Kids: The Lair of the White Worm
On the property of an old bed and breakfast in the Derbyshire countryside, Scottish archaeology student Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) is excavating the ruins of an old convent that was built atop even more ancient pagan ruins. During his work, he finds a giant serpent like skull that completely baffles him. Taking a break from his work, Angus takes the night off to venture into town with the sisters who are hosting him at the bed and breakfast, Eve and Mary (Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis), to attend a party thrown by local aristocrat Lord James d'Ampton ( Hugh Grant). Since d'Ampton's distant relative is purported to have slain a giant "wyrm" in the nearby cavern system, Lord James is quite interested in the skull that Angus has found. Except that the skull soon disappears, Eve starts having terrifying visions of the nuns of the ancient convent being destroyed by snakes, and a belonging of the the sisters' parents, who have been missing for a year, turns up in the nearby caverns. And all this weirdness seems to tie into the strangely enchanting Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donahue) who resides in a nearby manor called Temple House. Is there more of a connection between the past and present than anyone expects?
This movie has a tone that waivers a bit, but I think it works. Lair of the White Worm is a really strange film, but it's definitely not a schlocky film. It's quite well put together and nicely layers a few perplexing mysteries during its first act. There are no weaknesses in the quite likeable cast, but the movie is really driven by the seductive eccentricity of Donahue's Lady Slyvia Marsh. While Lady Marsh exhibits incredibly odd behavior she also manages to to be incredibly captivating, stealing every scene she's in. She's perhaps the best representative of the tone of this film: captivating, unusual, and somewhat tongue in cheek, while still menacing.
While the film takes place in the remote locales one might expect to find in the English countryside such as isolated homes, empty fields, and ancient caverns, the encounters with the remnants of an ancient cult are fast and frantic. The dreams and visions experienced by a few of the characters are terrifying and filmed with a fever dream like quality. They're definitely going to make an imprint in your mind, perhaps even more so than the film's climax that is a smorgasbord of great, old school creature effects. This isn't a terribly deep film with unique ideas, but it's better than your standard cheese fest. It's a loving, (albeit more sinister), tribute to the creature films of the 1960s. You'll see ancient temples, giant worms, snake women, people being charmed by music like a cobra, and two Doctors (more like a Doctor and a half) working together to save Derbyshire from a gargantuan white worm. I can think of worse ways to spend two hours, can't you?