‘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)
Wheel of Time, What Might Be
Episode three of Wheel of Time was easily my favorite so far. It’s dramatic, dark, and speaks to the growing concerns about evil invading the world.
Let’s begin with Nynaeve. After showing little to no progress, Liandrin thinks she’s ready to go through the Trial of The Arches. This is an initiation that all Aes Sedai have to go through to become a sister. It’s dangerous, not totally understood, and doesn’t have a great survival rate.
One would think some cooler heads would prevail and not let the very new person do this so early. Especially since Nynaeve seems to have some issues with impulse control.
But she goes into the trial, seeing first a scene from her childhood where her parents are attacked.
The point is to walk back through the arches, leaving her family behind. This she does, but doesn’t look very happy about it. Her second trial involves finding herself back in Two Rivers, where a horrible plague has ripped through the people. Again, she has to walk away from the people that she cares about and come back to reality.
The third test is a little more tricky. It appears that Nynaeve comes back covered in blood, with no memories of what happened.
Terrified, she runs from the castle only to find Lan waiting for her.
In the real world, where Liandrin and the others are waiting for her, she simply never returns.
This shakes Liandrin. She decides she’s done holding Mat against his will, and lets him leave. Excited, but also smelling a trap, he takes Min with him.
Still not sure why she had him to start with, but I guess it’s cool that she let him go.
Meanwhile, Rand is working with a familiar face at his hospital. It’s Logain, who we might remember as the false dragon from season one.
Rand would love some advice about channeling as a man. But it appears that Logain might really have lost his mind.
My favorite scene in the episode was the one involving Perrin and Lady Suroth. This scene was perfect.
First off, the character design for Lady Suroth was just perfect. Without moving more than a hand and the crook of her mouth, she manages to be terrifying.
The massively scary nails help, as does the headdress that is both beautiful and reminiscent of an insect. The sort of insect that seems likely to bite and lay eggs under the skin of a victim.
Her absolute authority was terrifying. Uno certainly learned that.
What was more scary, of course, was who was standing next to her. Does she think she’s the one in charge? Or is she perfectly clear on where stands?
What didn’t work
One thing that I don’t love about this season is, unfortunately, not likely to change. It’s true in the books, and it’s true in the show.
The ensemble cast structure doesn’t work for me.
It fractures the story in too many directions. It’s too busy, there’s too much going on. At the same time, there isn’t enough going on with individual characters for me to establish an interest in all of them.
I care what’s happening with Egwene and Nynaeve. I care what’s happening with Perrin.
I don’t care as much about Rand right now. And she wasn’t as involved in this episode, but I don’t care about what Moiraine is going through either.
That could be because the world is coming to an end and they’re refusing to be team players. But maybe that’s just me.
Overall, this was a fun episode. It feels like pieces are being put into place. The characters are getting ready for something big. Something that we can only see the beginnings of.
Something that they clearly don’t think they’re ready for.(3.5 / 5)
American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain
American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.
Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.
Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.
But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.
Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.
You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby.
AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.
Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.
This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us.
I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.
This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.
What didn’t work
Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!
Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here.
I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.
I feel like they’ve been railroaded.
All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring. (4 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Strangers and Friends
Episode two of Wheel of Time, widened the divide between the show and the books. Things are happening out of order, people are acting out of character. Whether this is to the detriment of the show, however, has yet to be determined.
One character missing from episode one was Rand. You know, our main character. But we finally catch up with him now.
He’s living in a city with a woman named Selene. They don’t have what I’d call a super healthy relationship. She spends a bit too much time talking about her ex.
Yes, for those of you who didn’t read the books, this is going to be important.
Rand is also working at an insane asylum. He’s kind and patent with his charges, but not all of his fellow caregivers are.
Meanwhile, Lan and Moiraine are recovering form their Fade attack from last episode. Rather than taking the time to actually heal, Moiraine decides to head out to find Rand. Her team comes with her, which seems to really bother her.
While that little hissy fit is taking place, Nynaeve is causing issues. Not by anything she’s doing, but by what she’s not doing. As none of the regular novice teacher have been able to get her to use the One Power, Liandrin offers to try. No one, including me, is thrilled with this. But, the Aes Sedai are desperate. They know that The Dark One is around, and they need Nynaeve to be ready. So, they let the person who’s driven other students to their deaths and actively committed multiple hate crimes take over.
What could go wrong?
The special effects in this episode were really well done. I especially liked the dead fade nailed to the wall.
I was also pleased with the introduction of Elayne. Ceara Coveney is playing her, and doing a fine job. She’s warm, kind and sweet. I am thrilled that she’s around.
One of the greatest things about Wheel of Time is the friendships between the characters. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve and Egwene legitimately care about each other. Elayne seems to care for Egwene right away. I really love that.
What didn’t work
One thing that bothered me in this episode, and frankly the last episode, was Liandrin keeping Mat in prison. I feel like this wasn’t adequately explained. Why does she have him? How did she trap him? What in the hell is she trying to get from him? Perhaps I simply missed something, and please let me know in the comments if this is the case. But it feels like some poor writing to me.
I also don’t love how Moiraine is portrayed in this episode. Really, in this season so far.
I get that she’s never exactly been a warm person. She’s not personable, open, or kind. Some (most) fans of the book would likely agree that she’s kind of a bitch.
But she’s not a bitch for no reason. She certainly isn’t the sort to lash out at the people who love her because she’s in pain. And that’s what she’s doing through this episode. She’s taking her pain out on Lan. And that’s just out of character for her.
It feels very much like a lot is being skipped over from the Wheel of Time books. But, so far at least, I don’t feel like anything vital has been missed. It feels more like the story is being streamlined.
Yes, I understand how this might go horribly wrong. I think we’ve all seen that. But as of right now, the changes make sense for the switch in mediums.
Now, let’s see if it stays that way.
(3 / 5)