Adapted from the Bram Stoker novel of the same name, The Lair of the White Worm is directed by Ken Russell, who also brought us The Devils.
The film opens with a young Scottish archaeologist, Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi), who is excavating the ruins of a convent in the front garden of a Bed and Breakfast in Derbyshire, called Mercy Farm. Whilst unearthing some unusual Roman coins, Angus discovers a skull which he first presumes is a dinosaur, then discredits yet is unsure what creature it could be. The Trent sisters, Eve (Catherine Oxenberg) and Mary (Sammy Davis) run Mercy Farm and invite Angus to the Lord James D’Ampton’s (Hugh Grant) Ball, where he discovers the legend of the D’Ampton Worm, a man-eating giant snake/worm type creature that James’ ancestor slayed. Angus toys with the idea that the skull is that of the D’Ampton Worm, and is further fuelled by concerns when the skull is stolen from his room. Elsewhere in the village, Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe), returns early to her stately home, Temple House, after being away for the Winter. Her arrival coincides with some strange goings on, including the discovery of the Trent’s late father’s watch in Stonerich Cavern, miles away from the location which their parents went missing. Who stole the skull and what happened to the Trent’s parents? And what links Lady Marsh to the sinister goings on?
The film plays host to a good range of actors, including Peter Capaldi of ‘The Thick of It’ and Amanda Donohoe as the sultry Lady Sylvia Marsh, who has most recently starred in Emmerdale of all things! I was surprised to see Hugh Grant in this film, after all this is a horror and Hugh is known for his Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’ type film work. To see him in something different was great, even though he played a comfortable role in the character of Lord James D’Ampton, it suited him well. The film has many funny moments and is not meant to be deadly serious, although there are parts which are so surreal and explicit you begin to wonder what kind of film you are watching. These flashes of nuns being battered and raped by Roman soldiers whilst a crucified Jesus figure is being suffocated and eaten by a white worm are so brilliant, I’d love to watch a full film with them in. Even though these moments are few and far between, they really add some pizzazz to the whole feel, and create an other worldliness, which is what the film is about. The story treasures it’s past, and you will discover what the D’Ampton Worm really is about.
The thing which impresses me is whilst this film is pretty small and close knit, it builds a mythology that has no loose ends, and makes a well rounded story. It may not be a groundbreaking film but I was so impressed i watched it twice in the space of 30 hours. Now thats not bad!
So I gotta give the White Worm
Watch it, you will not be disappointed!