When people inexplicably stop dreaming, a company produces a product called Fantasites: a worm that crawls into the brain of people and allows them to produce dreams again. Charles, a socially awkward young man, wants the Fantasites so he can fulfill his desire of having a relationship with the girl of his dreams -- June, a young woman from his apartment complex. When Charles does begin to take the Fantasites, he soon finds himself tossed into a dark world where desires are replaced with addictions.
In a former life I was devoted entirely to the genre of science-fiction; that was until the horror genre started creeping in and eventually took over. Sure, the space operas set in galaxies far, far away were fun and is what the genre is mostly known for, but it is also a genre that is one of the best when comes to examining our collective society through cinema. When I first saw the trailer for "Worm" from Untrademarked Productions, I didn't know exactly what I was going to get: touches of drama and comedy were present in the well made trailer and it was ultimately the concept that attracted my interest. I certainly wasn't expecting the impressive movie that "Worm" was but what really surprised me is that it's a movie that has long been needed in the world of science-fiction.
Charles is a socially awkward young man who lives with his father at an apartment complex where the two of them serve as the maintenance crew for the building. Charles watches the tenants of the building, particularly a young woman named June, -- the girl of his dreams -- and has desires about living a life he sees that others have. That's when Charles decides to invest in Fantasites; a mysterious worm being sold by a corporation that is suppose to help people dream. No one understands why people stopped being able to dream but Fantasites was created to help fix that problem. And for awhile, it does help Charles in being able to dream of a better life. However, desires soon become addictions and when Fantasites are eventually banned due to a health risk, Charles and June spiral down a dark and disturbing path.
One of the best sub-genres of science-fiction is social science-fiction; a sub-genre that exists to examine social issues. While the literary version is far more recognized than its cinematic brother, movies such as "Nineteen Eighty-Four" or "Metropolis", excel at taking hypothetical scenarios and using them to criticize contemporary society. That's not at all what I was expecting to see when I sat down to watch "Worm" but that's exactly what I got. "Worm" is a blend of different genres that looks at the idea of what would happen if people suddenly stopped dreaming.
While blunt, "Worm" serves as a fantastic allegory for drug addiction (as well as the war on drugs and corporations); even going so far as to show the characters deteriorate, physically and mentally, the longer they continue to use Fantasites and how dangerous individuals become once they are addicted. Had "Worm" only existed to be representation of addiction, it wouldn't have been as good as it was. The concept to the movie is seemingly more tragic than that because of its focus on the idea of dreams. After all, what are people if not dreamers? It's a brilliant concept since we as people love our dreams because it allows us to escape from our immediate reality and indulge in our fantasies and imagination. It's the same reason why people take drugs -- that form of escapism -- and in the case of Charles, being given the gift of being able to dream again. The movie progressivly becomes darker as each time these characters indulge in using Fantasites, they become depressed, angry and desperate for another fix when they are snapped back to the unfortunate reality that surrounds them. Of course, when the Fantasites become banned due to the health risks they present, the users become violent and go to extreme measure to collect the worms from people's brains.
The Charles character amplifies the tragedy of the movie, not only due to John Ferguson's excellent performance of the character, but also because of how well written he is. The Charles character is interesting because while he is socially inept, and perhaps even a bit slow, he often seems aware of his own unfortunate short-comings. He knows that while he isn't able to live the life that he would like to by being the cool guy and having the girl of his dreams wrapped around his arm, it doesn't ever stop him from trying to be like everyone else. Creating genuinely awkward moments for the character that, not only makes you feel awkward yourself while watching these disastrous interactions he has, but it creates a sincere feeling of sympathy for Charles. And again, it falls back to the idea of how important dreams are and why things become so horrible when the on thing that allows Charles to have these dreams, he can no longer have, and he has to face the reality that he can't have that happiness that he wants. He can't have the person he wants.
It isn't my intention to make "Worm" sound as horribly depressing as I think I am but drama is the main genre of the movie, next to the science-fiction aspect. At least I thought so. The movie isn't always focused on the drama and has quite a bit of comedy spread through out the first half of the movie. "Worm" actually starts out fairly light hearted and Charles's unfortunate awkwardness leads to some amusing results. The movie is very well constructed; it isn't merely bouncing from genre to genre. The comedy and the drama elements are strategically placed to make the story and atmosphere more effective. And while the movie may start off well enough with some light laughs, it progressively gets darker to a point that the movie manages to produce some actual shocking moments of violence. Not in a exploitive attention seeking manner either; these moments serve more as an exclamation on the point of these characters turning and becoming addicted to having dreams that fulfill their desires, and what that pushes them to do.
"Worm" is just a fantastic piece of social science-fiction that is able to be both amusing and tragic. It's not only a great movie that fills a void that feels like it's been missing from the sci-fi genre as of late, but "Worm" never becomes overbearing in the delivery of its ideas and commentary. It is a well constructed movie that takes an abstract and hypothetical concept -- people being unable to dream -- and creates something real out of it. It's a movie that accomplishes everything that is needed to make a great movie: an interesting idea and story, great writing, great performances and being well produced. As an independent movie, "Worm" is undoubtedly a low-budget production but it never feels like it because it's focused on delivering its ideas and characters, and successfully does so.