Popcorn Frights: All Jacked up and Full of Worms Is the Punk Rock of Horror

One of the greatest things about film festivals is getting the opportunity to view films that might possibly be overlooked by larger distributors. The films that would fall into the hands of boutique and niche distributors like Vinegar Syndrome are the films that really speak to deep genre fans. Rarely do I find myself at a loss for words about how to classify a film, or what it was even about. Normalizing not really understanding something is a must in not only our genre but in film as a whole. It is possible to appreciate and adore a film even when you don’t really know what or why something is happening. All this leads to a new subgenre we need to accept more in horror, something we can tentatively label the WTF subgenre of horror. The films that fall in line with the Kusos of the world are films that can truly have lasting impacts. Where am I even going with this?

Roscoe fiends for worms, and will do anything he can to get his hand on them

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is one of the weirdest, zaniest, mind-f*cking genre films I have ever seen. This film is punk rock: it takes the conventions of film and completely subverts everything you could ever be taught in film school. It should honestly exist in a category of its own, and it’s hard to even try and compare it to anything. This film is like H.P. Lovecraft‘s prose: indescribable.

At its core, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is about Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello), a maintenance man at a hotel, who meets Benny (Trevor Dawkins). Benny just happened to try and have an encounter with a sex worker Henrietta (Eva Fellows), who left a cigarette case’s worth of hallucinogenic worms behind. When consuming the worms, well, you get pretty damn high. The film soon devolves into pure madness and mayhem, with a script that, on paper, seems like would be very hard to pull off.

For Alex Phillips’ feature directorial debut, this is one hell of a film. The concept and execution are on point. This film feels like a series of very calculated steps to arrive at a certain destination. I have a distinct feeling this film will go down in genre history as Alex Phillips’ Eraserhead. His weirdness and ability to portray his ideas and thoughts in film are nothing but pure talent.

One of the main aspects of this film surrounds a youth series pleasure doll, which, as you probably guessed, is a baby doll with a Fleshlight-type mouth. It is one of the most cursed images I have ever seen. The pleasure doll could have been handled in a gross or tasteless way, but I think they really used the doll for the perfect amount of time, no more or less. I saw the doll as a conduit for the audience; we are the pleasure doll, and the film is Benny giving us our milk, telling us he is going to take good care of us, and then leaving us to our own devices, making us consume this film like it’s milk being poured into our gaping mouth. I hate that I just wrote that.

Henrietta dangles a handful of worms, in a very 70s style shot

The vibe and look of this film fall in line with early Cronenberg and Lynch, with hints of a behind-the-counter brown bag VHS tape. They go through a few different styles throughout the film, changing how we are viewing the film on a situational basis. A scene in the parking lot looks like something from an indie drama, with its lighting and camera work, while a scene in one of the hotel rooms, with a man Roscoe and Benny meet, feels like what Oliver Stone was aiming for in Natural Born Killers and failed miserably at. A specific scene towards the end constantly shifts from security camera quality footage to a regular feel, back and forth multiple times. Whether you enjoy this film or not, it would be impossible for someone to say this film does not look visually interesting at the very least.

The visuals cut together perfectly with the score, which seems to also change styles and feel quite frequently. This whole constant idea of change really makes you sit on the edge of your seat, not only wondering what is coming next but because you feel so goddamn uncomfortable and are unsure of what is going to happen next. To say this film is predictable is akin to saying the Pope shits in the woods.

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms feels like it is an unsafe movie in the best possible ways…it feels like it’s something I shouldn’t be watching. It is very stylized and you can feel the craft wriggling deep in the veins of this film, but remains raw and unfiltered. People who set out to make an experimental film nowadays usually end up failing quite miserably, the people who only studied experimental films but could never fully grasp it. This film is experimental to the max, it exists in a world entirely its own with everyone’s acting being as strange as possible. Nor the style or substance of this film feels forced at all.

Benny lashes back at the two people trying to kill him

There will be people who cannot, or will not, try to grasp what this film is saying, rather they will look at it as a weird worm-filled movie they found in a listicle of weird films. All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is a work of art that will piss people off. Biff (Mike Lopez), who did an amazing job but it would have been wild to see Tom Segura in the role, has a line about why he does what he does. He basically says if you can’t find what you want to watch, go do it yourself. When he says the line it’s way more literal than how I’m using it, but it feels like Alex Phillips wanted to watch a weird-ass movie and just couldn’t find one to scratch that itch. This film is a must-watch for every genre fan. From its moments of cosmic horror to its hilarious Bound 2 motorcycle scene, there is not a single boring or unengaging moment.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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