Friday, November 20, 2015

The Lair of the White Worm - Review

The Lair of the White Worm (1988) **
D: Ken Russell
C: Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis, Stratford Johns, Paul Brooke, Imogen Claire, Chris Pitt, Gina McKee, Christopher Gable

Plot Synopsis: An archaeologist (Capaldi) discovers a large & inexplicable skull, which he soon deduces belonged to the D'Ampton Worm, a mythical beast supposedly slain generations ago by the ancestor of the current Lord D'Ampton (Hugh Grant). The predatory Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) soon takes an interest, hinting that the vicious D'Ampton Worm may still be alive.

Review: In Lair of the White Worm, we learn that worms aren't just slimy little creatures that pop out of the ground whenever it rains, but were once thought of as mythical beasts in the same regard as dragons. From there, we watch as the characters run around in circles either trying to free this mythical worm or stop it. Director Ken Russell spices up the proceedings with some of his various trademarks.

There's hallucinatory imagery, religious references, perverse sexual behavior, characters outfitted in outrageous costuming and even a song & dance number celebrating the white worm. All of this makes for an eye catching experience, but once the credits roll and the film's over with, you realize that all of these Ken Russell trademarks were thrown into the mix to camouflage the lack of plot, narrative or context.

Ask yourself this. How did I emotionally connect with the material? How did the film affect me? What have I token from watching Lair of the White Worm? How has this enriched my perspective on the horror genre? Once you learn how this production came to be, it's all the more apparent that Ken Russell's heart wasn't in this.

You see, back in 1986, Russell made a film entitled Gothic. Gothic turned out to be a huge financial success for the distributor (Vestron Video). Vestron, looking to cash in, wanted to get Russell on board for future horror film productions. Russell had been trying for years to get a prequel to Women in Love (entitled The Rainbow) off the ground without any success. Vestron agreed to finance The Rainbow, but in exchange, Russell had to direct another horror film for Vestron.

Lair of the White Worm served as bridge so that Russell could get another project off the ground. It's a technically competent production in service of an unnecessary movie. [R] 93 minutes.

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