In a foolish attempt to try to make a lot of money, quickly, for his family, Worm — a simply minded, small-town man — takes on odd job from a shady individual. The job was suppose to be a standard home robbery but results in Worm being wanted for a double-homicide. As Worm flees from police custody in an attempt to find proof that he wasn’t the who murdered those people, he uncovers a world of lies and deceit from all those he knows.
When filmmakers decide to make a movie using an unusual method it always becomes a question about whether or not it’s an effective alternate form or simply a gimmick to garner attention. At this point, there are so many movies out there who use the single-take style (and almost as many that claim to be the first to do it) that it has since lost all value and now is almost viewed exclusively as a gimmick.
As such, on paper, when you read about Andrew Bowser’s film “Worm” — a movie shot in a single-take and only using a SnorriCam rig with a GoPro — you almost instantly want to brush it off. But when it comes to Bowser’s film, and you actually watch it, you get a sense that the technical boundaries are there to bring out the essence in the story.
Worm is a petty small-time criminal who’s known throughout his town as the kind of guy who is, more or less, his own worst enemy. Now that he’s a family man, he’s trying to live on the straight and narrow but when an opportunity to make a lot of money is presented in the form of an odd job from a shady individual, Worm jumps at the chance. What was suppose to be a simple robbery results in Worm being wanted for the murder of two people. Worm decides to avoid arrest in order to get his money and to expose his innocence, but on his journey he uncovers the truth about those involved in him being setup. It isn’t before long that Worm’s left with no one to trust as his world crumbles around him and he’s forced to take drastic measures in order to protect the one person that means the most to him.
Initially, I’m glad that I first found about “Worm” by watching the trailer instead of reading about it since, had I read about the single-take style, I undoubtedly would have skipped the movie outright. And still, it is probably the least interesting element of the movie itself. However, I couldn’t help but be curious about the idea of watching a movie that’s shot entirely using a SnorriCam rig. Having the actor front and center would surely become a tiring visual, I thought.
In hindsight, it does to a certain extent. It also becomes an interesting visual experiment — you don’t actually see the story unfold, but rather, you get see the aftermath of what has happened. In some odd way, it’s almost like reflecting on a memory — you know what occurred during an event but you can only see bits and pieces of it. I know that sounds a bit pretentious but it’s the only way I know how to define why the format worked. To me, at least. What I also think makes it interesting is to realize that the single-take format is the only way for this style to work as a feature length movie. Had there been edits or cuts, the movie would have become far too disjointed. Instead, the dizzying imagery that the camera rig generates is complimented by the single-take and exemplifies the visual concept of the SnorriCam — to show a character’s disassociation with their own environment and the chaos that unfolds.
That concept and, ultimately, the style works perfectly for “Worm” because you’re not seeing an empty 90-minute showcase of technical gimmicks. Instead what you see is the movie that the filmmaker intended you to see; a movie about the desolation of a character’s life. Could “Worm” have been shot using traditional methods and still succeed? Absolutely. But the way in which it was shot gives “Worm” that little bit of an extra kick. A bit of a defining trait, if you will, which is what any movie could use. The actual story of “Worm” is a well done souther-noir flick where you watch the mystery unfold and each twist and turn that’s taken. What’s even better is that it’s the story and the writing, not the perpetual closeup, that enables you to become involved in Worm’s plight. You sympathize with a man who only wants to and tries to give his family something more even if though his resources are limited. It’s something that helps to keep the viewer engaged and something that gives the movie a bit more weight, especially in the ending.
So, yes, “Worm” could have been shot in a traditional manner because the writing is there to support the movie’s existence, but it still needed that extra something to help elevate it. Especially since there seems to be a lot of deep fried noir stories coming out as of late — movies like “Two Step” and “Cold In July” to TV series like “True Detective”. The style and writing for “Worm” exists in sort of a symbiotic relationship; each piece is not exclusively dependent on one another but each one uses the other to its advantage. The style gives the movie a defining characteristic while the writing helps keep the style from feeling like an empty gimmick.
All in all, “Worm” is an interesting little experiment. There’s a lot of things you can take away from it, both good and bad. I chose to focus on the good because, at the end of the day, there’s a solid little movie at work with relatable characters and an effective story. Which is the most important aspect about “Worm” even though I talked more about the movie’s technical side. The story kept me hooked because I wanted to know the answers as much as the character Worm did, and once that ending hit after all the buildup, I unquestionably became a fan of the movie. Again, it's not a perfect movie and there are some rough patches here and there, but overall, it's a well executed movie. Not only that, but it's movie that enabled me to look past the single-take, and the unconvential camera work, and see the movie for what it was and become invested in the journey of its character.