“The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out…
…The worms play pinochle on your snout. They eat your eyes, they eat your nose, they eat the jelly between your toes.”
We sang some nasty shit when I was a kid. Almost as nasty as writer/director Alex Phillips’ debut feature, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms, which just had its world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival and is exactly as cringeworthy as it sounds.
All Jacked Up and Full of Worms follows seedy motel cleanup guy, Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello) and desperate for human interaction weirdo, Benny (Trevor Dawkins), who find themselves on a trippy adventure together after they discover the ultimate high through worms. All jacked up and full of worms, they run into a variety of eccentric characters as they descend into madness and murder.
Sound nuts? You don’t know the half of it.
Alex Phillips’ film is a trash-sterpiece of the bizarre so strange and incomprehensible, it would disturb Frank Hennenlotter. Watching it is like devouring random mushrooms you found in an alleyway and rolling around in a dumpster while a rotting McDonald’s burger does a striptease out of its wrapper as it screams gargled nonsense at you. Time and again, I asked myself what I was watching. Time and again, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms set a flamethrower to my brain, cackling as pink tissue oozed out of my ears.
“You can’t even describe the experience,” says one depraved character. They’re right! I’ve spent twenty-four hours thinking of this movie, but I still have no idea how to explain it. How do you describe the indescribable?
In just the first few seconds, you’ll know if you’re ready to get All Jacked Up and Full of Worms or not. Phillips assaults the viewer with a barrage of weirdness, from a static-filled TV broadcast in which a man discusses his visions of a “king worm” (and yes, you do get to see said worm in all of its rubbery, looking nothing like a worm goodness), to Roscoe and his into “hippie stuff” girlfriend, Samantha (Betsey Brown) searching for inner peace on the floor, and finally Benny receiving a “pleasure” baby doll because he’s “got a dick” so he’s “gonna fuck with it”. Bleh. This is all just moments before Roscoe stumbles on the Clown King aka Biff (Mike Lopez) screwing in an alley, and Benny meets Henrietta (Eva Fellows), a hooker who offers to “do worms” when his dick isn’t up to his life motto.
This, confused reader, is the first ten minutes of All Jacked Up and Full of Worms.
The acting is awkward. The dialogue feels like it was written by one of those A.I. programs. Sleaze radiates off the lo-fi imagery like a noxious green cloud so thick you can practically smell it. Yet there’s a sadness conveyed by Botello and Dawkins that penetrates through the stench, despite their repulsive selves. Both men are searching for a connection, some sort of love that will allow them to actually feel something. They want to “become one with the earth”, and it just so happens that “worms are life…worms are love”. So why not get high as hell off them!? Underneath the comedic grossness is an oddball love story that doesn’t quite work, but hey, it’s the only sense of any sort of story that All Jacked Up and Full of Worms has, and there’s something at least a little sickly sweet about it.
This is first and foremost a quirky, gross-out comedy in which most of the jokes fall flat or are frankly revolting, but some visuals are so absurd, so disgusting, you perhaps can’t help a shameful smile or two. All Jacked Up and Full of Worms lives up to its title and then some. There is worm eating. Worm snorting. Worm vomiting. Even worm insertion (you’ll see, if you can stomach it). Blood is splattered. Intestines are used as jump ropes. All of it crescendoing into an orgiastic finale of gore and pure, unfiltered madness.
All Jacked Up and Full of Worms has the nonsensical vibe of a spoof musical you’d see in an episode of South Park. This isn’t a musical, but damn if it doesn’t feel like a baffling stage performance you’d find in some rundown New York theater. This film is such a strong injection of what the fuck, that I found myself expecting a giant worm to come out dancing with a top hat on at any moment. Why not? There are no lines here. Anything is possible in Phillips’ insane debut. This film is so outlandish that it will give you brain worms. Throughout the entirety of its short runtime, I sat there in silence, eyes bugging out, incapable of comprehension. Phillips invites (drags kicking and screaming) viewers into a trippy fog where nothing and everything seems real. What exactly did I watch? Was it real? Am I real? Is any of this real? All questions I asked as I watched the credits roll, lost in a dumbfounded haze.
To be clear, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is not “good”. It’s stream of consciousness storytelling without much story at all, packing in as much gross for gross sake and off-putting characters as it can dig up. Maybe I didn’t get it. Maybe it’s a meaningless pile of worm guts. I don’t know. What I do know is that Phillips has created something as unique as it is repulsive, with a face that any fan of the weirdest, most extreme, offensive cinema could possibly love. Personally, I can live without seeing it again, but I’d be lying if I said All Jacked Up and Full of Worms isn’t an unforgettable piece of underground cinema that wriggles around in your brain long after it’s over. Maybe forever.
By Matt Konopka