Etrange 2013 Review: WORM Is A One-Take Wonder
Worm is having a really bad day. The town baddies are after him. He can't look to his friends for help because they're turning against one by one. He can't even go to the police. They want him for murder! When he took the job burying a suitcase on the outskirts of town, he really should have known it held a decapitated head inside.
Such are the components of this noir thriller. If the narrative displays hallmarks of the familiar, its style is wholly new: the ninety-minute film is shot entirely on a GoPro camera in one continuous take.
As with most formally audacious films, Worm hits and misses. On the one hand, it's hard not to applaud the ambition and pluck at play. This is a film doing something new, and ultimately, I think it does it rather well. On the other hand, any film that plays out in nothing but close-ups of the lead will invariably fall short when that lead is not Maria Falconetti.
Worm's anchor Andrew Bowser is not the ethereal Falconetti of course, but he is the film's writer, director, producer and star, and that's not nothing. The film rises and falls on the precision of his fore-planning, which is exemplary, and the magnetism of his performance, which is... emphatic, to the say the least. Often, perhaps to counter his lack of speech, Bowser will over emote, mugging before the camera inches from his face as actors would play to the rafters from a giant theater's stage.
Because the GoPro camera cannot record audio, the film's entire soundscape - dialogue, ambient noise et al - had to be looped in post production. The effect is an often discordant split between sound and image. Lips move in one way and the speech comes out in another, in a manner anyone who's ever seen a film dubbed in a foreign language can instantly envision. It's jarring, but ultimately adds to the hallucinogenic feeling of the film.
The GoPro shoots with an extreme wide angle fish-eye lens, and one of the effects of this unyielding aesthetic is to heighten the nightmarish paranoia of the plot. At first this very brutal look can be make you a bit dizzy, but one over that it becomes rather hypnotic. The camera isolates the main character, and it feels like at times the world is closing in on him. Which, in terms of the story, it actually is.
Ultimately, Worm works best as a kind of extreme fusion of form and content. The film's narrative was reverse engineered from Bowser's plan to shoot with these particular technical specifications, and it shows. It's experimental. But if it does anything, Worm shows that experimental need not be a synonym of inaccessible.
Worm is a fun movie, and is an exemplary display of the up and coming Bowser's creativity and ingenuity. He'll go places, this one. If not in front of the camera, then definitely behind it.
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