All Jacked Up and Full of Worms
Dir. Alex Phillips (2022)
A hotel worker discovers hallucinogenic worms that, when eaten, take him and others on bizarre, drug-fueled trips.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Intended as an honest commentary on mental illness and the treatment thereof, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is a bizarre acid trip of a film that will make its audience feel like they’re on as many drugs as the characters within. The film is a grotesque body horror that aims for gross-out comedy as much as anything else, hitting the mark at times but certainly more absurdist than mainstream. The cast of characters are intensely disturbed, and while we may not want to know them, we definitely want to know more about them. As one of the more controversial entries at Fantasia Fest, this is one a lot of people are going to be talking about now that it’s been released on Screambox.
There’s barely a narrative structure for most of the film, with director Alex Phillips choosing to tell a series of interrelated stories rather than put together a straightforward, coherent plot. This makes the movie a bit hard to follow, but to be honest, the intention of the film is to put the audience into a dreamlike state to where they feel like the characters within, and it succeeds at that very well. The characters are all extremely unlikeable, each struggling with their own desires that seem to escape them: Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello) is in an accidental open relationship while the lonely Benny (Trevor Dawkins) desperately wants a child and practices with a child sex doll, which is something that I don’t know actually exists but will absolutely not be looking up. The two, who know each other peripherally, go on a worm-induced drug binge and meet increasingly disturbed characters who join them on their journey of insanity.
I love bizarre movies and absurdist humor more than most, but this one wasn’t a big hit for me. The film draws comparisons to The Scary of Sixty-First (which shares star Betsey Brown with this film) and the films of Jodorowsky, and I’ve seen comparisons to Eraserhead, which isn’t that far off either. Hell, the title itself is going to turn off quite a few horror fans. However, knowing the cult followings of those aforementioned films, this one is definitely going to find an audience who are going to fucking love it. The film is legitimately unsettling, a movie that will make you question your sanity and whether or not you’re actually seeing the things that you’re seeing. While most films that deal with drug use and the problems that come with it tend to focus the beginning of the film on the positive feelings that the drugs give off, this one doesn’t ever look like it would be fun at all.
The film is very competently shot, providing a movie that looks fantastic and with actors that do the best possible job with their subject matter. The effects are not always great, but they’re practical, usually hidden really well, and fit just as well with the bizarre nature of the rest of the film. Director Alex Phillips is an artistic dude, and his weird sense of humor and taste (or lack thereof) will make for an interesting career that will be worth looking out for. This film will end up being his Pulp Fiction, his character-driven film with loosely tangential relationships between characters, though it almost certainly won’t draw as big of a following. Check it out for yourself, though: there’s no accounting for taste even when there isn’t any to be had.
Who this movie is for: Absurdist horror lovers, Body horror fans, People who need more than shrooms to get them high
Bottom line: While this one wasn’t for me, I have a feeling it’s going to find a niche market that will treasure it. It’s outlandish, disgusting, and beautiful all at the same time, and it’s one that will creep into your head for weeks after watching. If Aronofsky had made Requiem For a Dream while high on mescaline instead of heroin, this is probably what would’ve resulted. Definitely not one for everyone, but it’s worth giving a shot if you like dabbling in the absurd. It’s streaming on Screambox, so check it out while you’re there to watch Terrifier 2. For only $4.99 a month and filled with exclusives that you can only see there, it’s worth subscribing if you’ve already seen all of the good stuff on Shudder.