You’ve never seen a movie quite like All Jacked Up and Full of Worms. It premiered this past weekend at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, and it’s quite unlike anything you might expect. Oh, sure, it’s a bit like David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch; it has a soupcon of Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But writer-director Alex Phillips has fully and completely made a gross-out drug-taking body horror movie for the COVID-19 set. Everything is a bit crappy, nothing’s very good, you may as well go eat worms. It perfectly encapsulates the kind of millennial nihilism in which we find ourselves. While the world falls apart around us, we may as well lose our minds.
The brain stickiness of the title All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is one of the most apt in recent cinema. The characters are all bored out of their minds, unhappy with their lot, and content to eat, snort, or (God help me) inject earthworms into their bodies for the apparently hallucinatory effect they have. They do worms to forget, to hope, to get through their horrendously dismal lives. But as dark and squalid as the events of the movie are, and as sort of repugnant as most of the characters are, Phillips and the cast make everything so much fun.
Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello) is an aimless motel maintenance man whose girlfriend is a hippie with a live-in lover. He’s tired of all the trappings of his relationship and just wants reality. Meanwhile, his buddy Benny Boom (Trevor Dawkins) is nothing but delusional. He wants to be a father but has no wife or girlfriend, or really anyone, to make that happen. Instead, Benny thinks he can manifest a child in what is probably the grossest way possible. I’ll allow you to discover just how but suffice to say it involves an inanimate object. After an unsuccessful tryst with a prostitute, Benny comes upon some worms, which he and Roscoe “do” and go on a wild trip.
Also in town are a murderer in clown makeup and his girlfriend who also like to do worms. They keep intersecting with Roscoe and Benny at the most inopportune times. As the trips pile up, Roscoe and Benny reflect on their respective failures of lives and hallucinate that what they watch on TV is real. Fiction and non-fiction blend as they spiral deeper and deeper into oblivion.
The movie is disgusting in the most engaging way. Believe me, no matter what’s going on in your life, odds are you can look at Roscoe and Benny and realize you have it better. They aren’t good guys, in the traditional sense, but we do grow a kind of affection for them. I wouldn’t necessarily say we hope for the best for them, but they do inspire a degree of sympathy despite their best efforts.
Phillips’ take on depression and self-destruction is an absolute wild ride. I am not here to say everyone reading this will like All Jacked Up and Full of Worms, but that isn’t its aim. This is not a “crowd-pleaser,” but if you join the crowd, you might find its repulsive ennui quite pleasing in its way. If you get a chance to see it, you absolutely must. It’s a real trip.
Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.