Alex Phillips’ feature debut All Jacked Up and Full of Worms plays out like a never-ending string of hallucinations. It’s never clear what’s actually rooted in reality and the movie becomes so surreal, it’s impossible for it to return to normalcy.
But what is normalcy for All Jacked Up and Full of Worms, a movie about down-and-out weirdos finding an escape by scarfing down hallucinogenic worms. They don’t always eat the worms, no. Sometimes they snort the worms and, in a revolting sequence, one person cuts open their arm and allows a creepy-crawly to slither around in their wound. The users immediately get high and lose control, resulting in activity that’s abstract, violent, and disgusting.
All Jacked Up and Full of Worms could be described as a transgressive take on drug culture. The movie’s depiction of desperation is often tough to endure because the characters, while hard to relate to or sympathize for, will do anything to find respite from their failures. Once they’re in this carefree headspace from the worms, they want to maintain this distraction. It’s a familiar motivation from addicts that audiences have seen before, usually in a more serious light and not in this movie’s darkly comedic tone. Nevertheless, the production and movie goers rely on the filmmaker to find a new way to tell this story. Unfortunately, Alex Phillips – parading his immaturity – is only interested in grossing everybody out. The nauseating practical effects, the crude creature designs, and a droning score by Chicago’s Cue Shop are stylistic choices that muddle the substance of this story.
The audience also can’t help but feel uncomfortable looking at a movie that appears so dirty – it’s like looking at the darkened, moist area behind a welcome mat that’s been peeled back in the springtime after the snow has melted. To make matters even more awkward and detestable, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms has disturbing sexual elements to it. The drug use makes some users horny, including an impromptu sex scene followed by the woman coughing up pus, but it infringes on ambitions as well. Benny, one of the more inappropriate loners, orders a doll online because he really wants to be a father. The doll he receives is a “pleasure doll” which still looks like an infant – a visual joke that’s never funny and goes down a tasteless avenue.
However, the doll does invoke David Lynch’s Eraserhead; especially its bizarre ending, as grotesque as it is. It was the first time while watching the movie that I was given a perspective into Phillips’ vision. It’s true Lynch uses dream-like fantasies in his work, but he uses them sparingly to create an uneasy atmosphere that teeters between euphoria and a nightmare. All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is nothing but nightmare fantasies. While that may be intriguing to some, it’s possible to overdose on creativity and torture an audience in doing so.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie