A storm takes down the power lines near the rural town of Fly Creek, Georgia. The power is out for the town but the lines are still generating 300,000 volts of electricity and pumping it into the wet ground. The electrical charge is electrocuting the worms in the ground driving them out.
Geri Sanders (Patricia Pearcy) lives in Fly Creek. She borrows a friend’s truck to pick up her boyfriend Mick (Don Scardino). He is visiting from New York City. The truck belongs to Roger Grimes (R.A. Dow). Roger and his father Willie (Carl Dagenhart) are worm farmers. While Geri and Mick are in town Roger’s cargo of 100,000 bloodworms and sandworms escape from Roger’s truck. Willie is not happy.
Mick meets Geri’s mother Naomi (Jean Sullivan) and her sister Alma (Fran Higgins). Mick is into antiques so he and Geri head over to a local dealer Beardsley to check out what he has for sale. What they find is a skeleton.
They summon Sheriff Jim Reston (Peter MacLean). When he gets there the skeleton is gone and the sheriff thinks they are playing a practical joke. Later they find the skeleton in Roger’s truck. Suspicious of Roger, Mick decides to investigate. While out fishing with Roger and Geri, Mick gets bitten by a worm. Roger tells them when he was a child he was bitten by one. He says his father sent an electrical charge into the ground to bring them up and Roger got severely bitten.
Mick leaves the boat pretending to get his bite attended to. Instead he gets the skull from Roger’s truck, breaks into the dentist’s office, finds Beardsley’s x-rays and confirms the skull is Beardsley. Geri's sister Alma tags along. Out on the boat Roger hits on Geri. She pushes him away and he falls to the bottom of the boat. The bait worms attack Roger and burrow into his face. He falls overboard and runs off screaming.
When Geri tells Mick about the worms they go to the worm farm and find Willie being eaten by worms. Later that day Mick comes to the conclusion that electricity is still being pumped into the ground and the worms are on a rampage.
“Squirm” was released in 1976 and was directed by Jeff Lieberman. It is really one disgusting movie. And really good. It’s one of the better “Nature gone berserk” films that were big in the 70’s. They are part of the sub-genre of “Natural horror” AKA “Creature Features”.
The worms make an awful screeching noise. The sound effect is produced using the electronically processed sound of screaming pigs in slaughterhouses. The sound clip is from the movie “Carrie” 1976. The squishing noise is a combination of balloons and shears in multiple loops.
Half the worms were rubber and half were real. The number of worms used is unknown but it is estimated at three million. The filmmakers would order shipments of 250,000 worms at a time. They were shipped from Maine in refrigerated trucks. Apparently they used up the entire New England supply of fishing worms that year. The filmmakers also used Boy Scouts as basically worm wranglers. They received merit badges for their work.
There is one story where, during production, there was a mix up with the film processing lab. Footage from a wedding was accidentally sent to Lieberman and footage of worms for the film was sent to the newlyweds.
The special make-up effects for the film were done by Rick Baker. He did Roger’s prosthetic face, affectionately dubbed “Wormface”.