Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lair of the White Worm

Lair of the White Worm 1988
Director: Ken Russell
Writer: Ken Russell
Starring Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis, Stratford Jack, Imogen Clair and Christopher Gable

Ken Russell has always been one of the more unusual genre directors and each film of his has its own idiosyncrasies. He always seems to film his movies through a wapred kaleidoscope of reality. The most obvious example of that is the cult classic The Devils. Though, Lair of the White Worm has quite a few strange and disturbing images throughout the film. It has always seemed to me that most of Russell's films are best viewed with a higher state of consciousness and not as a stone cold viewing experience. A lot of this film is a classic neo gothic horror film but the scenes with the worm and its priestess subverting the reality of its victims make it seem like a film on LSD and that technique really works in the films favor. This film has a great feel throughout and some great performances by both Grant and Donohoe as the diametric opposites who must face off against each other. The imagery in the film is shocking and slightly disturbing and this is what makes the film work so well and has made it keep its appeal over the years.
The plot basics are this, Angus Flint (Capaldi) is a archaeologist who has come to the Trents sisters (Davis and Oxenberg) Bed and Breakfast to excavate some mines. He finds some strange coins in a skull and as he investigates he discovers the legend of the D'ampton family of the vanquishing of the White Worm. About a year ago the Trent's parents disappeared near the Temple mansion that is now occupied by Lady Sylvia Marsh (Donohoe). Soon, people star disappearing and Angus along with the Trent's begin to investigate. They are assisted by their friend Lord James D'ampton and get to the bottom of the mystery. Soon, Sylvia (Oxenberg) is abducted by Sylvia as it seems she is the high priestess for the White worm and it will be up to James and Angus to put a stop to the reign of terror Lady Sylvia has been putting the countryside through.
This is an exceptionally well done film. Russell's direction is great, he sets up a twisted sexual mood throughout the film and never fails to deliver on the sordidness of the whole affair. The surreal dream sequences involving Lady Marsh and the worm are the highlights of the film, they are like a post modern art exhibit brought to garish life. The script is very good too, it is based on a obscure Bram Stoker short story and combines a gothic feel with an adventures story of the likes of King Solomon's Mines. The characters are very bizarre and idiosyncratic, which works very well for the film. They are not really characters you expect to see in a film of this type, but somehow it really works out. The cast is exceptional. The film really belongs to both Donohoe and Grant, though. Donohoe vamps it up as a sexy femme fatale and she is mesmerizing whenever she is on the screen. Grant is a good choice at the opposite end of the spectrum, he plays the stalwart hero to a T. He has the feel of a Alan Quartermain combined with Sherlock Holmes. The SFX and effects are very well done, especially the animatronics White Worm. Also, the look of the monstrous Lady Marsh is quite horrific and works quite well too. This is a bizarre and surreal horror film, but one that is well worth viewing.
This one gets 4 out of 5

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