APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS (2022)

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Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Alex Phillips

FEATURING: Phillip Andre Botello, Trevor Dawkins

PLOT: Roscoe and Benny meet randomly one afternoon and then paint the town red whilst all jacked up and full worms; the bacchanal’s fallout isn’t pretty.

Still from All Jacked up and Full of Worms (2022)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: There’s lots of manic energy, lots of worms, and though there is only one of them, there’s still too much of filmdom’s creepiest baby doll. All Jacked Up and Full of Worms eschews most logic as its characters careen from mundane life into exhilarating highs, then crash into a third act full of death, violence, fluids—and the ubiquitous worms.

COMMENTS: “There’s only one wrong way to do worms,” Benny proclaims boisterously to a stranger whose motel room he’s just barged into. But the stranger, knowing what’s what, what’s cool, and what it’s all about, casually replies, “Not do worms?”

Bingo. Whatever madness this rundown Chicago milieu has seen, it hasn’t seen nothin’ until these ranks of riffraff find the ultimate high. The riffraff roster: Roscoe, unflappable motel janitor dabbling (also) in New Age-y energy transference; Samantha, girlfriend of Roscoe and insufferable hippie; Jared, interested third-party in Roscoe and Samantha’s relationship, also seen carrying a bucket of his own blood; a pair of possibly homeless worm-junkies, one of whom is never without clown makeup; Benny, a delivery man (?) with a big beard and great need to manifest a baby of his own (name tag reads: Call Me: DADDY); and Henrietta, a kindly prostitute and known addict whom Benny fails to fornicate with. Looming in the background television is a sometime pagan, now born-again Christian, whose soul seems somehow tied to an überworm with the mantra, “You must unlearn your shapes”.

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms unabashedly revels in its body horror roots, drawing much of its inspiration from Cronenberg‘s Naked Lunch. The hook here is worms (if you’ll pardon the bon mot). The film begins like an ensemble comedy, but proceeds mostly along the lines of absurdist-grossout-nightmare. The director introduces each cast member (including the worms) with their own vignette. The entire first act plays like a dingy madcap romp, its joyful madness peaking as Roscoe and Benny ride through a worm-fueled trip (and a concurrent literal one) on a motor scooter.

But as with a worm’s natural orientation, things go sideways, and Alex Phillips reveals his hand. Buried in the dirt of his character’s strange lives is a steadfast streak of seriousness. Roscoe is forced to come to terms with the reactive nature of his existence; and Benny’s trials with his new baby sex-doll (this… was disturbing) elicit far more empathy than perhaps even Todd Solondz could have thought possible. The exuberance morphs into viscera(l) tension, and amidst all the illogical craziness of the double ending, we find peace on one side, and rebirth on the other. And isn’t that what worms are really all about?

Listen to our audio interview with the crew who made All Jacked up and Full of Worms

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Watching this while actually on something is likely to lead to psychedelic crisis, while its wilfully wacky weirdness – all the unnerving body horror and basic worm puppetry – will leave the straights at best bewildered and at worst bored.”–Anton Bitel, Proijected Figures (festival screening)

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