An assassin with artistic merit is getting too old for his job when he is hired to do his biggest hit yet - taking down the owner of a brothel. But first he has to train a youngling who might be a good shooter, but who needs to learn control, planning and... poetry.
I haven't really looked into the recent releases from Unearthed Films for different reasons. I don't have anything against the company per se, but they have had some unappealing releases. One I never planned to watch was "The Scarlet Worm", mostly because I'm not a big western fan and usually only watch them when someone sends them to me ("Damn Your Eyes" and "Pólvora Negra"). And this was the case with "The Scarlet Worm" - it was sent to me, so I gave it an honest shot! And you know what? It's not that bad.
We follow an aged gunslinger, Print, on his latest big hit when he is hired to kill the owner of a brothel who is abusing his whores. But Print is no ordinary assassin. He's classy and wants everything done with style. In one case he kills a man who was disturbing his cattle, and he ends up sowing him into the cow carcass. On the latest assassination Print is also given a rookie to help him, but first he needs to train him. And that mostly means giving him some manners and style. We also meet the town's barber, an ex-assassin who is trying to get away from all of that. Personally I think this guy was the most interesting character and wouldn't mind a prequel about him specifically - pre-barber life, of course.
It's a pretty classic western film in most ways. The characters, the macho attitude, storyline, style/looks, location, shootouts - it's all there. In a good way. It's easy for independent period pieces to come off as ridiculous and stupid but this one is solid in its execution. That's ultimately what makes it an appealing watch as the story itself managed to lose me after a while. I actually think it was entertaining up until they went to assassinate the man. Before that it was mostly preparation and getting to know the characters - which was oddly enough entertaining me more.
If you expect it to be a really gory movie just because it's released by Unearthed Films then you might be disappointed. There are plenty of shootout scenes, and the hits are rather gory but not enough to classify it as "gory". I think the effects are pulled off pretty well as it's not over-the-top, and what CGI is used is only to make a few things work (although I can't say I was impressed by the gunfires). Overall a pleasing watch in that matter.
The characters are really the highlight of the film. From our lead man Print, to the kid and the barber, they're just fun and interesting for the most part. Maybe not so much in terms of character depth, but there's definitely some acting chops there, and you can sense a backstory to them. Which I think is important if you're gonna sell your characters as elite assassins who have killed the likes of Billy the Kid.
"The Scarlet Worm" works. I think that's the main focus here. It does what it set out to do and it succeeds. I can't say it's a fantastic film or one I will watch again, but as a modern independent western I had a lot of fun with it. The story is alright even though I got bored when they actually set out to do the deed, and the characters are very western-like. I suppose that goes for the entire movie as it doesn't take a bunch of strange turns. And then there's some blood splatter and nude prostitutes.