Directed by Doug Mallette
Set in a not-too-distant future, nobody dreams anymore. However, a new type of ‘drug’ called Fantasites – a living worm that you place in your ear each night – gives the ability to dream. When users start receiving side effects, Fantasites are taken off sale and banned by the government, forcing their sale underground. With no ready supply of the worms, some people will go to drastic lengths to get their fix and a night full of blissful dreams.
Part sci-fi, a splash of horror and plenty of drama, WORM focuses on the life of Charles, a quirky maintenance guy who works for his father, the landlord of an apartment building. Possibly suffering from autism or something similar, Charles finds it incredibly difficult to socialise and counts the tenants of the building as his friends though they are anything but. With Fantasites advertisted wherever he goes, he decides to look into the dream-inducing worms and decides they might be his key to forging friendships. With such little money, he can only afford the economy Fantasites compared to tenant Reed who prides himself on only having the premium stock. After befriending Reed’s girlfriend June, who pities the lonely Charles, Charles finally finds himself gaining the social interaction he craves and he suspects if he swaps his economy Fantasite with Reed’s premium version, he might even win his girl. However, happiness comes at a price and when the Fantasites are withdrawn from sale, how far will he go to get the woman he loves?
WORM starts off strongly with its idea of Fantasites and the power of dreaming and shows how addictive this worm could be. Like any drug though, there’s different strengths and purities and not content with the effects or social status of the cheaper version, poor Charles wants more. When he starts swapping out Reed’s stash with his, we don’t feel bad because Reed is a douche anyhow but it’s hard to see what sort of effect the lower quality of worm is having on Reed, if any at all. When the Fantasites get banned, it seems everyone from all walks of life, except for Charles, is beginning to receive unwanted symptoms of paranoia, hallucinations and sickness. It’s hard to decipher whether both economy and premium cause these symptoms or whether it’s just from a longstanding use. With Charles having only used them for a brief amount of time, he appears unaffected but there’s no saying continued use wouldn’t render him the same.
The main meat of the film isn’t actually the Fantasites but the love triangle between Reed, Charles and June. Reed, keen on his boss at work, doesn’t seem too interested in June that is until he feels someone is taking her away from him, mainly Charles. She just feels sorry for him and wants to try and include him in their lives but all Reed sees is a weirdo caretaker who he’d never hang about with in a million years. Introducing Fantasites into the equation brings the three closer but not for the right reasons but Charles is unable to see the truth for his life with people in it is much better than that he had before.
WORM is an interesting premise but it starts to feel jumbled by the time it hits the halfway mark. The confusion becomes a little too much and affects the enjoyment of the movie as we, like Reed, have to put up with Charles’ unrealistic ideas on reality. The link to drugs, dependency and addiction to them is plain to see and though Fantasites do seem to be a glamourised version, the outcome is the same. Rather than suffer withdrawl, some will do anything to get their fix and the lengths which they’ll go to is where the film reaches a bloody conclusion.
WORM is definitely a stylish, inventive movie but I think it could have benefitted from being reigned in a tad to give a clearer narrative.