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‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’ is now streaming exclusively on Screambox.

Independent arthouse cinema is a particular subgenre I have grown to be quite fond of over the years, especially those within the horror realm. What draws me in most is when they’re nightmarish explorations of our inner selves, heightened by hypnotic visuals. Films like Brandon Cronenberg’s ultra-violent futuristic thriller Possessor, where brain-implant technology is utilized by agents of a secret organization to possess the bodies of ordinary people, forcing them to commit high-profile assassinations, all while said agent (Andrea Riseborough) struggles to maintain her own self memories. Or Robert Eggers eerie black and white seaside tale of terror, ‘The Lighthouse’, in which two lighthouse workers (Robert Pattinson and Willem DaFoe) are driven to insanity while living on a mysterious remote island in New Hampshire during the 1890’s. Both films utterly unique in their visual representations as well as their executions yet elicit thought provoking questions involving the demons that dwell within us, others, and society. This was the type of mind-bending experience I was hoping to receive while watching Alex Phillip’s feature film debut ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’. Unfortunately, this is one artistic vision that has left me scratching my head in confusion as to what Phillip’s underlying message is, assuming of course there is one.  

Digesting the worms

actors Botello and Dawkins as their respective characters Roscoe and Benny sitting on a beach getting ready to eat a pair of worms together. Light waves can be seen rolling into the shore as Benny and Roscoe sit cross legged in the pebbled sand. Both are seen where light jackets. Roscoe is a combination of white, grey, and red colors while Benny's is black with two large orange strips running across his back, and one large orange strip along the side of his arm. Electrical towers can be seen in the back ground as Benny's urly brown hair blows in the wind, Roscoe peering at Benny with a look of anticipation.
From left to right: Phillip Andre Botello (Roscoe) and Trevor Dawkins (Benny) in All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’

Premiering at Fantastic Fest 2022, when I saw the trailer for ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’, I was intrigued by its premise and weird transgressive visual flair. The plot for ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’ doesn’t offer much in terms of complexity, as its story is fairly straightforward. Two strangers, Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello) a maintenance worker at a debaucherous motel and third in a strenuous polyamorous relationship with his girlfriend Samantha (Betsey Brown) and their odd roommate Jared (Noah Lepawsky); each of which continuously chasing ethereal transcendence. Benny (Trevor Dawkins) a lone and strange creep who craves nothing more than to father a baby, encounters local sex-worker Henrietta (Eva Fellows), introducing him to the films hallucinogenic earth worms and coincidentally works at the same sleezy motel as Roscoe. Soon after an awkward, yet somewhat tender session between Henrietta and Benny, the two men cross paths quickly bonding over their depressive lives commencing the vile ingestion of slimy nightcrawlers. What starts off as a fun quirky trip quickly shifts to a night of mayhem after running into maniacal serial-killer clowns Biff (Mike Lopez) and his nameless girlfriend (Carol Rhyu), whom are also fellow worm addicts. I’m sure there’s many of us who’ve dabbled with hallucinogens in the past, hopefully not worms…so you could see why a film like this may be enticing to a particular crowd.

kaleidoscopic image of Benny and Roscoe tripping on the films hallucinogenic worms. Both men have looks of sheer terror riddled on their faces. Benny's mouth is open wide screaming while Roscoe sits to his right gritting his teeth anxiously.
chaotic trip into madness.

Before I attempt to dissect my thoughts for ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’, let me first say there are a few qualities to this rather confusing film I did find myself appreciating that others may as well. The cinematography is quite impressive as Phillips combines kaleidoscopic visuals, brief flashes of neon, fountains of blood, and psychotropic effects between scene transitions elevating the trip experience. When it comes to the worms themselves, they’re nothing special, your typical earthworms however, the means in which they are consumed is truly grotesque; I guarantee your stomach will churn in disgust. This is intentional as Phillips never shies the camera away from the mass consumption of worms which mainly consists of chewing and a lot of discomforting snorting. Through these effects, the viewer is unwillingly catapulted into the psychedelic hellscape that is Benny and Roscoe’s worm trip, which feels everlasting. These moments of sheer insanity are brought to life by the bold performances provided by Botello and Dawkins. Both are able to convey moments of pure anxiety, hyperventilating once their trips begin to turn south as thick beads of sweat trickle down their brows. Though as oddly captivating as these performances are, especially given the bizarre script, the same cannot be said for psycho clown Biff and his maniacal girlfriend. In fact, I found it difficult to appreciate or even like any of the characters in ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’.

Descent into the proverbial abyss

This is in no part the actors’ fault, but how the characters were written. Benny for example is depicted as being a crude simpleton, with Phillip’s slight attempts to make you empathize for this character with his parental aspirations. These moments are quickly overshadowed by Benny’s dialogue as it is often times discomforting and quite perverse. It’s also Benny’s dream of becoming a parent I take particular issue with as well. Not so much him raising an infant but, the way in which he goes about fulfilling his fantasy. In one of the films more controversial moments, Benny purchases a baby doll however, not just any doll…a sex toy baby doll. I’m sure you can imagine the unveiling of said purchase is not only shocking but just as disturbing as you think it is. The scenes that follow afterwards are equally upsetting, so I will refrain from expanding further details at this point. Phillip’s is clearly attempting to elicit strong emotional responses, and he most certainly achieves them however, I’m still at a loss as to why these were included.

Image of Biff the clown and his girlfriend being devoured by the films grotesquely large psychedelic worm. Two large spiked tendrils can be sween wrapped around Biff and his girlfriends neck, pulling them them close. All that lies behind the two characters is pure blackness.
Did someone order worms?

Roscoe is another character who also fails to receive any growth throughout ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’ which surprised me, as I felt his character would have been the one to reach a life-altering awakening. Regrettably, we’re just bystanders watching a character’s rapid addiction fuel his increasing need to get high on worms chasing unobtainable transcendence. As opposed to utilizing his 24-hour trip for self-reflection, spiritual enlightenment, or a profound astral journey; he at first introduces the worms as a means of romantic approval from his emotionally estranged girlfriend Samantha, only to then become reliant on them to escape his mundane reality. It’s through his frustrating choices that inevitably lead him to the serial killer clown couple where he begins committing unexpected and befuddling acts of random violence. When it comes to Biff and his girlfriend, they are meant to be a reflection of unhinged anarchic rebellion. Alternately, I found their characters to be less than enjoyable, growing more annoyed by their presence the more I saw them on screen. When they try to instill fear, it’s laughable as their characters are anything but scary. In fact, the only times I chuckled throughout ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’ were whenever Biff attempted to be an intimidating presence.

What makes ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms‘ more aggravating is how Phillips’ chooses to push his jumbled narrative forward. While yes, the visuals can be stimulating at times, it only works when you can feel some sense of curation that helps lead us down a path of clarity or understanding. ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’ attempts to blur the lines between these characters reality and their chaotic trip by melding images intentionally to exert shock, distress, repugnance, and many other emotional responses. The problem is, the majority of these scenes do not feel cohesive to the film’s plot, and there are many of them. Once the off-the-wall climax was finished and the credits began to roll, I was left feeling mentally exhausted attempting to piece together Phillip’s obtuse puzzle unsuccessfully. Perhaps that was the intention, to have the audience walk away feeling confused and emotionally strained, questioning whether or not there’s an underlying theme. Maybe there is no hidden message or meaning, to be honest, I’ve yet to still figure that out.

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The Comedown

There is a method to the madness when it comes to the presentation for ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms‘. Phillip’s had a clear vision when concocting this insane psychedelic trip through hell but, any message the film is trying to convey gets lost in the bizarre editing choice straying us away from any answers to the numerous questions that develop throughout the taxing story. ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms‘ is not a film meant to please everyone, though there is a certain audience that will find appeal in this ambiguous venture, especially those seeking a brain-melting horror experience. Unfortunately, for me, Jacked Up worms is a depraved psychedelic trip I do not plan to revisit any time soon.

1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

Utah transplant TT Hallows now resides in Portland OR haunting the streets of PNW for the past 5 years with his spunky feline companion Gizmo. Horror and writing are his passions, taking special interests in sloshy grindhouse slashers, thought-provoking slow burns, and fright-filled creature flicks; Carnage Candy reigns supreme! When not binging excessive amounts of gratuitous gore, you can find TT Hallows shopping the local thrift and witchcraft shops (oh yes, he's a witch), expertly dancing (or so believes) to New Wave/Dark synth melodies or escaping the monotony of "walking amongst the living" with serene oceanic views and forested hikes. TT Hallows is an up-and-coming horror reviewer/writer for HauntedMTL. Step with me into the void...if you dare.

Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Kelly

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Launched in October of 2023, Suburban Screams is the latest project by acclaimed horror master John Carpenter. It’s a true crime/unsolved mystery series covering events that have terrified people living in, you guessed it, the suburbs.

The story

Our first episode, titled Kelly, is the story of two roommates named Dan and Joey. The actual Dan and Joey tell the story from their own perspective, interspersed with dramatic reenactments. This did feel very much like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

One night when Dan and Joey have their girlfriends over, they decide to play with an Ouija board. Since they don’t have one, Dan makes one on a pizza box, complete with a planchette. This is, of course, when things go terribly wrong.

Still from Suburban Screams, Kelly.

Honestly, I have never heard anyone say, “I had a great time with that Ouija board, I’m really glad we did that.”

The couples make contact with a spirit named Kelly. This is very upsetting to Dan’s girlfriend May, as she had a cousin named Kelly who went missing and is presumed dead.

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Dan then finds himself haunted by Kelly. He throws up water, finds his kitchen chairs stacked on the table, and is followed around by a haunting song. Dan feels like he won’t find peace until he helps Kelly find peace.

What worked

There was a lot to enjoy in this first episode. Specifically, I loved the horror visuals. Dan’s vision was very creepy, as an example. And I loved the shots of the body floating down the river. These images were eerie and upsetting.

The storytelling from Dan and Joey was also well done. While I have my doubts about the validity of this story, these two men believe wholeheartedly in what they’re saying. I certainly believe that they experienced something disturbing. Either that or they are some fantastic actors.

What didn’t work

That being said, some things rubbed me the wrong way in this episode.

I’d like to start with the herbs Joey burned during the Ouija session. It looked like sage, or maybe sweetgrass.

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As some of you might know, I am a practicing witch. So I do feel the need to point out that if you want to open a door and invite spirits in, you probably don’t want to be burning sage or sweetgrass as those are going to negate any spiritual activity. This was for sure the action of someone who does not know what the hell they are doing. It just irritated me.

Also, maybe don’t throw open a door indiscriminately to the spirit world. Just saying.

I also didn’t love the acting by Ben Walton-Jones, who played Dan. While it wasn’t a terrible job, the character felt overacted. I don’t know how he had room for that pizza, since he was chewing the scenery most of the episode.

Honestly, this episode felt a little underproduced. When I saw John Carpenter’s name, I was expecting something with some real production value. Great acting, great effects, great music. None of those were in effect here. I’m not sure where their budget went, because it didn’t go to any of the things it should have.

Is it true?

So that brings us to the big question. Do I think this story is true?

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Well, it is verifiable that Kelly Lynn Fitzpatrick was a young woman who unfortunately was found dead in 1999 in Quebec. The rest of the story, so far as I can find, is up to speculation.

Do I believe someone could contact the dead on an Ouija board they made out of a pizza box? Yes, I do. Because Dan made it with his own hands it might have worked better than a store-bought board. But do I think he was haunted to this extent by the spirit of Kelly?

Well, I would say that I believe this about as much as I believe the story of the Amityville house. Something certainly happened here, but I am sure that the details shared in this episode of Suburban Screams are highly overblown.

In the end, while I did have fun watching this episode, this fun was tainted. I would have enjoyed it more if it was presented as a fictional story loosely based on real-life events. Because that is almost certainly what it was.

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Beginning

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We’ve now reached the end of Fallout, season one. As I mentioned during the last review, I was heartily concerned that this show, like so many others, was going to drop the ball at the finale and ruin an entire season.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This episode was everything it needed to be and more.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin our story with Maximus returning to the Brotherhood of Steel compound. He has a head, which he is claiming is the real head of Wilzig.

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I don’t know why he thought that was going to work.

Of course, it doesn’t. The elder cleric is about to kill Maximus until Dane says that they hurt their foot.

Because of this, the Brotherhood is sent out to get the head. Or rather, what’s inside of it. They head to the city run by Moldaver. This happens to be the same place Lucy and The Ghoul are headed.

Still from Amazon Prime's Fallout.

There, Lucy does manage to find her father. What she ends up finding is so much more than she wanted to find.

What worked

The first thing I have to discuss is how seamlessly the storylines of the series combined.

Each of our four main characters has been on their own journey. Lucy is trying to save her father. Maximus wants to become a knight. The Ghoul wants to find his family. Norm wants to know what’s going on in Vault 31.

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I sure wasn’t expecting all of these stories to come together in the way that they did. And to preserve the ending, I don’t dare say more. I will only say that yes, all four stories tie in perfectly with one another. By the end, two characters end up having the very same goal.

As I hinted before, I did not see the twist ending coming.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Yes, we might have guessed some things from the last episode. We of course guessed that Lucy’s dad was involved in some nefarious and probably sci-fi way. But the way this story twists at the end is nothing short of serpent-like. Which is why I cannot go into too much detail here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to experience it blind.

Finally, I can give the Fallout season finale the most important praise I can ever give a finale. It did its number one job, getting us excited for season two. We have answers, but now we have new and more exciting questions. And even better, we have a desire to see vengeance done.

What didn’t work

Now that the season is done, though, I can bring up something that bothered me through all eight episodes.

I don’t buy Lucy and Maximus’s relationship.

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Maybe because it’s rushed. Maybe because the two actors don’t have a lot of chemistry. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure even now either character could tell you a single thing about the other. There is just no spark between the two. So their love story feels tacked on. I honestly feel like their love story could have been removed from the show entirely and it would have no negative impact.

I also didn’t buy Dane’s confession. This is a minor spoiler, but it comes up early in the episode. Dane confesses that they hurt their foot so that they wouldn’t have to go into the wastelands.

And at first, I kept expecting Maximus to thank them later. I honestly thought that they were just lying to save Maximus’s life. But no, as it turns out, they were not.

But it just doesn’t make sense. The motivations don’t jive. I honestly think it would have been better for the story if they had lied to save Maximus’s life.

At least then there’d be one other Brother of Steel who had some nobility.

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In the end, this first season of Fallout was everything I could ask for. So far as I can tell, it was everything fans of the Fallout franchise could ask for. There wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. Honestly, the only real complaint I had was that the season was so short.

I’ll be counting down the days to season two, and I hope you’ll be joining me then. Because war, war never changes.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Radio

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Episode seven of Amazon’s Fallout is the penultimate episode. This is often when a series goes off the rails and starts to mess things up. After being burned so often recently, I was apprehensive when this episode began.

Thankfully, this was a fear that did not come to pass. And so far, Fallout’s finale is doing just fine.

Lana the dog in Fallout.

The story

A lot happened in this episode, so we’re just going to skim over some of the more important storylines. We’ll start with Lucy and Maximus, in Vault 4. Lucy has discovered what she believes is a secret collection of monsters. But of course, it turns out that it’s simply people that the vault dwellers discovered and are trying to help heal. But her meddling around was enough for them to kick her out of the vault. With two weeks’ worth of food and water, of course.

But Maximus assumes they’re going to do something much worse. And so he steals their power coil to fight through the perfectly innocent people and save Lucy.

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Meanwhile, we dive further into The Ghoul’s past, when he was still Western star Cooper.

After attending a Communist meeting, he’s approached by Lee Moldaver. She suggests that Vault Tech is hiding something, something terrible. And she tells Cooper that his wife Barbara knows more about this than she’s letting on. Moldaver gets Cooper to bug Barbara’s Pip Boy, and listen in on an important meeting.

Poor Cooper hears far more than he wants to.

War, war never changes.

What worked

I would like to first point out that this was one of the funniest episodes so far. I mean, it got incredibly tragic and sad by the end. But it also had some great laugh-out-loud moments. This should be a surprise to no one, with such an array of comedians guest starring. Chris Parnell was in the last episode as well but is now joined by the incredibly funny Fred Armisen as DJ Carl. This is of course not his first foray into the funny and spooky world, as he also played Uncle Fester in Wednesday.

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Most of what makes this episode funny is the character’s understated and deadpan responses to wild situations. When Maximus returns the energy coil and is greeted by a simple thank you. When Thaddeus gets an arrow through his neck, and slowly realizes that hey, he might be a ghoul. These were hilarious because they could have been truly dark moments. But because this world is so dark, and the characters have already been through so much, they’re simply done. They take all of this in stride because of course that’s what’s happening. It’s par for the course for them.

Aaron Moten and Ella Purnell in Fallout.

On the other hand, we’ve finally seen the full extent of The Ghoul/Cooper’s past. And it’s so much worse than we could have imagined. I assumed that he’d lost his beloved wife and daughter in the atomic blasts two hundred years ago, somehow not dying with them and instead turning into a literal and figurative monster. The truth is so much worse. I’ll do my best not to spoil the ending. But I will say this. There is nothing more painful than mourning someone and hating them at the same time. And it’s easy to see how Cooper turned into The Ghoul. That sort of pain could drive anyone mad.

This balance between comedy and tragedy is one of the reasons why this episode worked so well. It’s one of the reasons why the series is working so well. It manages to combine the core tenets of theater in a way that never compromises the strengths of either. The eventual downfall of Thaddeus is a great example of this because it’s both tragic and funny. We’ve seen what happens to ghouls, and it’s a horrible end. But as he’s hardly been a sympathetic character, we can all get a good laugh at his predicament as well.

The sheer amount of good old-fashioned gore doesn’t hurt either, of course.

What didn’t work

All that being said, there was one thing that bothered me about this episode. And it was the reveal of Vault 4’s big secret.

Honestly, I was expecting the Vault 4 storyline to go way darker. I wanted it to go way darker. While I’ve never played these games myself, I know enough about the story to say that these vaults are not the bastions of safety and morality that they have so far been portrayed as. And while that has certainly been alluded to, we haven’t seen it.

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We haven’t seen the depravity in these vaults. And it’s there. But maybe we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

In the end, The Radio did exactly what it needed to do. It set us up to have most of our questions answered in the season finale. And I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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