‘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
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.
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.
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.
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 / 5)
Movies n TV
Consecration, a Film Review
Consecration is a 2023 horror mystery movie directed by Christopher Smith, who also co-wrote the script with Laurie Cook.
Consecration is a 2023 horror mystery movie directed by Christopher Smith, who also co-wrote the script with Laurie Cook. This R-Rated film includes Jena Malone, Danny Huston, and Janet Suzman as its starring cast. The film is currently available on AMC+ and Shudder.
After her brother dies, Grace (Jena Malone) goes to Scotland to investigate the circumstances. At every step of the way, Mount Saviour Convent seems to interfere with her investigation. Father Romero (Danny Huston) seems eager to help her, even if Mother Superior (Janet Suzman) resists her, but a strange fear seems to direct their actions. Worse yet, Grace endures visions of the past, present, and future.
What I Liked
A surprise performance steals the movie for me, that being Eilidh Fisher’s Meg. This nun-in-training remains consistently inconsistent, forever making me unsure of what to expect. With uncertainty and mystery at the heart of the film, Meg expresses that instability by keeping Grace and the viewer on edge.
Mother Superior and Father Romero have perfect friction with each other. Both manage the supernatural situation in their own way, acting as enemies and supporters toward Grace as needed. This friction also adds to the uncertainty that surrounds Grace’s investigation.
The mystery itself surprises me, though there is barely enough to add the context one needs for this mystery. However, it still earns credit for creativity and deception. Most twists and reveals become apparent and often underwhelm me, but Consecration deserves credit for catching me off guard.
Consecration showcases some alluring visuals, CGI not included. The setting and designs really add to the movies. At times, these visuals purposely contrast their environment as the narrative requires. Usually, it complements the central vision. The film gives off a pleasant aesthetic throughout its runtime–barring the CGI.
As a horror, Consecration has haunting moments. The mystery remains the central selling point. However, it leaves the viewer in constant uncertainty that helps the horror thrive.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Self-harm and suicide reoccur throughout the film, across several scenes and characters. Aside from ensuring the audience remains uncertain of events, there are no larger discussions or much focus on the issue.
Child abuse defines the backstory of certain characters. Unlike the point mentioned above, this earns more of a narrative focus. However, it’s still not exactly the point of the mystery. Don’t expect the film to explore this with sensitivity or depth. If these seem like dealbreakers, Consecration might be a skip.
What I Dislike
I briefly touched on a CGI problem, which hinders the otherwise interesting and alluring practical visuals. There are no ways to understate how distractingly bad one scene’s CGI is and how it upsets that quality. This scene, no spoilers, happens to be the most open use of CGI. There are other CGI moments, but none distract or hinder like that first scene.
The monster reveal underwhelms in a specific way. The twist perfectly aligns and sets up the foundation for this reveal to make the monster work. However, several reshoots add context to prior scenes to show this “demon” in action, and it somewhat upsets the effectiveness of those scenes.
Thoren Ferguson’s DCI Harris shows up sporadically throughout the film. He acts as the force of law, often hostile but completely underutilized. I suspect DCI Harris had a larger role, but somehow this plot was reduced. I assume this because he plays an important scene at the end that doesn’t seem earned. This isn’t to undermine Ferguson’s performance, as he does everything he can with what he’s given.
Consecration hooked me in and kept me engaged throughout its runtime. While the horror is middling, it has merit. The mystery remains the strength of the film, though it’s somewhat underdeveloped. If your mystery films tend to keep you in suspense through shifty characters and secret religious orders are your thing, Consecration might evoke your interest.
(3 / 5)
Movies n TV
You Reap What You Woe
Episode five of Tim Burton’s Wednesday was very busy. A lot is going on here, and most of it is quite fun. So let’s not waste any time getting into it.
First, we must discuss the fate of poor Eugene. If you’ll recall, the last episode ended with Wednesday finding him in the woods, covered in blood.
Despite Principal Weem’s insistence that he’s resting up and healing, he’s actually in a coma in the local ICU. But maybe she has reason to gloss over that unfortunate fact. It’s parents’ weekend, after all. Probably not the best time to admit that a student was grievously injured.
While there are certainly some Nevermore students who are happy to see their parents, none of our main characters are among them. We know that Wednesday isn’t thrilled to see her family, as she’s still resentful that they left her there.
Still, she’s not exactly pleased when Gomez is arrested for the murder of a man named Garrett. This devastates the family and forces Morticia to reveal a secret she’s been keeping from Wednesday.
Morticia also finally gets a chance to talk about Wednesday’s visions with her. She tells her that Goody Addams, who’s made psychic contact with Wednesday several times, is there to teach her about her visions. But Goody Addams is also super vengeful, and not to be trusted. I wonder why.
While much of the episode is about freeing Gomez from jail, the subplots are no less interesting.
Let’s start with Enid. As we know from the first episode, she has yet to grow into her full werewolf potential. If she can’t do this, she’ll be shunned by her kind and likely abandoned by her family pack. Her mother wants to help her, by sending her to a summer camp meant to help werewolves wolf out. Enid refers to these as conversion therapy camps. Which is clearly a problem.
The story that shook me was Bianca. She’s outright afraid when her mother shows up. And the reason is soon made clear.
Her mother is part of a cult called the Morning Song. Bianca’s mother is married to the leader. She’s been using her siren song to trap people in the cult. But her powers are fading. She wants Bianca to come take her place. If she doesn’t, she’ll reveal a terrible secret of how Bianca got into Nevermore Academy in the first place.
I honestly don’t have a lot of bad things to say about this episode. Except that wolf out is a ridiculous term and I cannot take anyone who uses it seriously at all. The characters were fun, the storyline was interesting, and it was satisfying to start getting answers. It helped that this episode included some real-world bad guys, like conversion therapy and cults. If every other episode of this season had been as good as this one, the show would be top marks from me all around.
This episode was a dramatic example of exactly how parents can fail at their job of raising their kids. And, thankfully, how they can succeed. We see Enid’s mom refusing to let her grow at her own pace. We see Sheriff Galpin ignore a clear cry for help from his son Tyler. We see Bianca’s mother, involved in a cult, using her child for her siren powers. And of course, we don’t see Xavier’s parents at all.
But we also see Morticia being a good mom to a difficult kid who’s rebelling against her. We see Enid’s father supporting her, exactly as she is. We see Eugene’s moms by his side at the hospital. At the bedside of their son, they are still able to give comfort to Wednesday. That is some strength right there.
Overall, this was a fun episode. We got some answers and were introduced to even more questions. I had fun watching it, and I’m looking forward to the next episode.
(4 / 5)
Movies n TV
Solace, a Film Review
Solace (2015) is a mystery thriller directed by Afonso Poyart. This R-rated film stars Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Morgan and Abbie Cornish.
Solace (2015) is a mystery thriller directed by Afonso Poyart. This R-rated film includes Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish, and Colin Farrell. As of this review, it is currently available to Netflix and Hulu subscribers.
As a string of murders leave FBI agents Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish) perplexed, Joe turns to an old FBI contact and friend, Dr. John Clancy. Dr. Clancy possesses psychic abilities that make him an essential asset, but tragedies in his personal life leave him distant and broken. Fearing a person with similar gifts as himself, Dr. Clancy cannot help but lend his assistance.
What I Like
This cast is great, with notable legends living up to their reputation. While by no means career-highlighting performances, they work well together and provide a weight that pushes past lackluster character roles.
As the main character, Anthony Hopkins’s Dr. Clancy stands out above the rest. Given the most screen time and plot relevance, this opinion comes easily. His role has the most opportunity to make us care for his character.
Solace creates fun and engaging scenes that tie directly to the characters’ psychic abilities, adding tension in unique ways. While other movies with psychics utilize similar strategies to convey this power–the movie Next comes to mind–the scenes add variety to otherwise lackluster cinematography. This decision also adds a somewhat strategic nature to the psychic battles.
Originally intended to be a sequel to Seven, this idea, thankfully, does not follow through to the final product. The story behind that is the typical Hollywood shuffle and brand recognition. I can’t exactly figure out a place to put this interesting fact, but the choice remains a benefit to the film.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Slight spoilers ahead! Read this section with that in mind.
A closeted man contracts AIDS and infects his wife. As this goes into rather old homophobia and fears, I felt it needed mentioning. Considering the film’s release date, 2016 (US), the plot point feels uninspired.
Some gratuitous sex scenes tie into the above reveal. The dramatic reveal and voyeuristic nudity (of the wife) make for an odd viewing experience. When the reveal isn’t shocking, it doesn’t exactly add much weight to the elongated scenes.
What I Dislike
There are no tactful ways to go about the low effort of the film. It’s surreal to see the names attached, the concepts addressed, and how it all fumbles. I imagine this discrepancy has something to do with the original sequel idea, but that remains speculation. Ultimately, the film feels awkwardly low budget for the cast it possesses.
Adding to this weakness are the underdeveloped characters and rushed plotlines. The film feels unfocused in direction, revealing things as they become relevant with fluctuating degrees of foreshadowing. Some of these revelations work, with some speculation, but adding them all together makes Solace weaker as a film.
This film isn’t scary, despite the premise being extremely promising. The idea of a potentially psychic killer does evoke a lot of possibilities, added with the exceptional cast, and it seems destined for success. Yet, the horror is middling at best.
Solace wants to be more and achieves some success in certain areas, but its inability to build and support these ideas hinders the overall quality. Perhaps Solace desires to upstage the twists of the typical mystery thriller that makes the film grasp too many new and interesting ideas. Regardless of the reason, the film suffers, and the viewing experience becomes underwhelming.
For a thriller killer, Solace doesn’t hold much water to competition. While the cast performs their roles perfectly and works well with each other, the notable weaknesses in writing and lackluster visuals don’t do the acting justice. A surprisingly exciting cast becomes a disappointing letdown. (2 / 5)