I’ve been on something of an unplanned Ken Russell kick, after going for years after not having seen any of his films – indeed, having never even heard of him until I saw Kyle Kallgren’s review of The Devils.
Lair of the White Worm is a loose adaptation of a Bram Stoker novel, which was in turn loosely inspired by a British legend. The film moves the setting of the tale to the late ’80s and makes it something of a horror comedy instead of a straightforward horror film.
The film follows Angus Flint (played by Peter Capaldi), a Scottish archaeology student who is excavating the ruins of an abbey in Derbyshire. There he finds the skull of a large snake, which might be tied to a local legend – the legend of the D’ampton Worm. In short, yes it is, and snake-person-vampire cultists are involved, and it’s up to Flint, the proprietors of the Bed and Breakfast where he’s staying – Eve (Catherine Oxenberg) and Mary (Sammi Davis) Trent, and the local Lord, and descendant of the man who slew the original worm – James D’ampton (Hugh Grant)
If nothing else, that cast shows how really talented Ken Russell is when it comes to casting – finding really talented actors before they’re a particularly big name (Indeed, Capaldi arguably didn’t get big until The Thick of It in 2005). Other than that, this has a lot more comedy to it than Altered States did, though its fairly dry comedy (but, then again, this is also a much more British film).
The film also has the same degree of sexually sacrilegious imagery that you can expect from Ken Russell, with a few additional interludes that are more graphic (including a hallucinated rape scene) which also, frankly, feels extraneous.
I did enjoy the film, but it’s also clear that this movie isn’t for everyone, so keep that in mind.
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