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The Independent Critic

John Ferguson, Shane O'Brien, Jes Mercer, Scott Ferguson, Sarah Shoemaker, Mark DeMaio, and Josh Matthews
Doug Mallette
93 Mins.
Synapse Films

 "Worm" is an Effective, Unique Indie Flick 
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Charles (John Ferguson) is a socially awkward apartment maintenance man who dreams of friends and real love yet finds himself living in a world with an overbearing father and a cosmetically challenged dog. He also lives in a world where it has been 30 years since anyone went to sleep and had a dream, though things are starting to change thanks to a new productive on the market called Fantasites.

Charles, who's more than a little aware of the mundane nature of his existence, grows to admire the life faster paced lifestyle of one of the tenants, Reed (Shane O'Brien). He really admires June (Jes Mercer), Reed's girlfriend. When he discovers that Reed is one of a growing number of people using Fantasites, he decides to take the plunge despite the fact that they're really out of his budget. Unfortunately, his results aren't the greatest and he quickly realizes that Reed's strain happens to be of a more premium variety. He gets his hands on the premium strain but, as one might expect, there's a dark side to this fantasy drug and before long Charles is struggling to maintain his sense of reality and hold onto the girl of his dreams.

Directed by Doug Mallette and primarily utilizing middle Tennessee talent, Worm is a multi-layered feature film that seemingly starts off as a sort of quirky little love story before evolving into quite a bit more as the story transpires. While there's never really a time when the ambitious and thought-provoking film doesn't have that low-budget vibe, it's a vibe that doesn't get in the way of the film's strong ensemble performances and solid production values.

As Charles, John Ferguson plays it very interesting as a young man who starts off as what would seem to be a 98-pound weakling yet whose eccentricities become obvious rather early in the film and travel interesting places by film's end. To his credit, Ferguson keeps Charles compelling throughout the film and you're constantly wanting to see just exactly where he's going to go.

Shane O'Brien is also strong as Reed, whose journey is fairly close to the polar opposite of Charles's and whose psyche' takes some interesting twists and turns in the film. As June, Jes Mercer provides the film with much of its emotional resonance with a performance that is sympathetic yet rather unsettling.

Rob Bennett's lensing is more inventive than you might expect from a low-budget indie, while Bill Mitchell's original music is effective throughout the film.

Worm is a feature-length project that started off as a 2011 48-Hour Film Project winner, a fact that truly validates the importance of such filmmaking competitions and projects because they do give birth to some of the indie film industry's most interesting and innovative projects while also giving voice to the industry's up-and-coming voices. For more information on the film, visit its official Facebook page linked to in the credits on the left of this review.

© Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic  

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