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Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi Wrestle a Phallic Threat in ‘The Lair of the White Worm’

By  · Published on February 16th, 2017

Vestron Video delights ’80s horror lovers with new Blu-rays of Ken Russell’s campy romp and the cannibalism comedy, ‘Parents.’

Something big and phallic is roaming the caves of rural England. Someone scantily-clad and fanged is biting young men’s peckers in a luxurious manor. There’s a chance these two things might be connected.

When an archaeology student (Peter Capaldi, Doctor Who) discovers a giant snake skull he comes to suspect it belongs to a creature straight out of legend ‐ a reptilian god that locals used to sacrifice young virgins to on a regular basis. He pairs up with the dashing, floppy-haired James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant, About a Boy) whose ancestor was credited, via those very same legends, with having slain the beast, and the duo soon realize that a local lady (Amanda Donohoe, Liar Liar) may be behind a new rash of disappearances.

Director/writer Ken Russell (The Devils) brings Bram Stoker’s lesser-known novel to the screen and delivers probably the most accessible film of his career. Russell infuses what could have been a familiar genre setup with wit, sex, and blasphemous imagery, but as nutty as elements of it become the core simplicity of heroes fighting to save their small village from an ancient evil remains. Grant and Capaldi are both fresh-faced and full of spunk, and while their respective lady-folk ‐ Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis ‐ are small potatoes the sultry and slithery Donohoe revels in her role of reptilian seductress.

The film as a whole is a goofy visual delight with plenty of gothic touches and practical gore effects to keep horror fans interested. There are plenty of entertainingly blasphemous scenes too guaranteed to keep us recovering Catholics smiling including one of a Donohoe’s partially nude and painted Donohoe hissing and spitting venom at a crucifix. Toss is visions of Roman soldiers assaulting nuns while a crucified Christ is nibbled on by a giant snake ‐ all done with the production design of an ’80s music video ‐ and the result is a movie that goes for the jugular, the funny bone, and secular gut with even but gleeful zeal.

The Lair of the White Worm is campy fun complete with over the top performances, gloriously demented set-pieces, and a finale that fully embraces the promise of all that came before. It’s never played as serious as the premise might suggest, and the movie benefits accordingly.

Vestron Video’s new Collector’s Series Blu-ray includes a trailer, still gallery, and the following special features:

Lair Of The White Worm [Blu-ray]


Something tastes funny in suburbia, and young Michael suspects it might just be a matter of ingredients.

Michael (Bryan Madorsky) is a single child growing up in the middle class suburbs of 1950’s America, but while the uncertainty of the world around him rages on it’s his home life that gives him nightmares. He dreams that his parents, Nick (Randy Quaid) and Lily (Mary Beth Hurt), are engaging in perverse behaviors behind closed doors, but their reality seems far more mundane. And then there’s the issue of the family’s steady diet of leftovers to which young Michael asks what they were before.

“Leftovers to be,” says his dad with a knowing smile.

Director Bob Balaban (My Boyfriend’s Back, but better known and beloved as a character actor) delivers a dark little horror comedy here whose highlights outshine the whole. Tone doesn’t quite hold together as the film tries to juggle laughs and thrills with inconsistent success.

It’s mostly the former that fails despite the presence of talented performers. Christopher Hawthorne’s script sets up various scenes and exchanges meant to bring some giggles, but they never quite land. By contrast, the darker elements come across well as Michael’s fears of both his parents and his situation create an atmosphere of real terror at times. Anyone who remembers being a child with an active imagination will appreciate the imagery he witnesses, whether real or in his dreams, and how it works to envelop him in a growing nightmare.

The film’s setting in the ’50s is no accident as it offers something of a commentary on Americana and the nuclear family, but it never really pursues those themes as doggedly as it could. Instead it settles for more intimate fears, and while they work well enough the tease of something bigger and more relevant leaves something of an unsatisfying taste in viewers’ mouths.

Parents doesn’t quite work on the whole, but some wonderfully dark imagery about the evil in our parents’ hearts makes it worth a watch.

Vestron Video’s new Collector’s Series Blu-ray includes a trailer, still gallery, and the following:

Parents [Blu-ray]

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.