Fantastic Fest 2022: “All Jacked Up and Full of Worms”

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is like a very special episode of My Two Dads about the dangers of drug addiction, co-directed by Luis Bunuel and David Lynch. Filled with scenes of snarfing and snorting night crawlers, violent murder, and metaphysical ramblings, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms isn’t destined for the multiplexes. Time will tell if the movie attains true cult status. As it stands, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is a perplexing and intriguing watch.

In the movie’s scummy vision of Illinois, a group of characters becomes hooked on hallucinogenic worms. These are big suckers, too. Imagine live fishing bait filled with something more powerful than LSD. Among those in search of the raging high that eating or snorting the worms provides are Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello), who works scrubbing out hot tubs at a motel where rooms are rented by the hour. After he discovers some worms left behind by a hooker, everything else in his life fades as he begins to chase down more worms.

We also meet Benny (Trevor Dawkins), a guy who admittedly has some mental issues. He wants a baby, and believes that he can create one through the use of a sex doll in the shape of an infant with a grotesque huge mouth. The instructions refer to the thing as a “Youth Series Pleasure Doll.” Ew.

There’s also the psychotic Biff (Mike Lopez) and his girlfriend. Biff wears makeup that makes him look like a cross between a clown and a mime while he repeatedly stabs victims in the stomach. He is also a fan of the worms and their effects and will kill to obtain them.

All of these characters collide in the antithesis of a “meet cute” and a series of surreal and violent events transpire. All the while, in drug-induced visions and on television programs, a gigantic creature known as the King Worm urges them to look within. “You have to relearn your shapes,” the King Worm says.

Well, I don’t know exactly what the hell that means. I can say the same for a majority of All Jacked Up and Full of Worms. There’s the tantalizing hint of a philosophical point to the whole movie, but I’m either not smart enough or not high enough to figure it all out. Repeat viewings are probably in the future so I can better grasp the film’s nuances, if they exist.

Any deeper meaning is buried somewhere under the sentient intestines and vomit that pervades All Jacked Up and Full of Worms like black mold in an unused room. Writer/Alex Phillips sets the parameters of his “Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago” world loosely, allowing all sorts of horrors to exist within. The movie has some fantastic ideas, many of which Phillips executes flawlessly. I mean, the face of that “Youth Series Pleasure Doll” is nightmare fodder.

What Phillips fails to do is make us care about any of the characters. All of the body horror and hideousness in the film would have been more impactful if we could empathize with someone. Sorry you’re having a bad trip, dude, but who are you again?

Viewers are left as unconnected observers of a genuinely horrific visual pastiche. The practical effects and general smoggy vibe work perfectly, but don’t do enough to encourage the viewer to fully engage with the universe of Worms.

What, was I not gonna watch a movie called All Jacked Up and Full of Worms? If, like me, you are the kind of person who is instantly drawn to a movie titled All Jacked Up and Full of Worms, then you owe it to yourself to fulfill your curiosity. It is as slimy as the name implies but ultimately hollow. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe I need to relearn my shapes.

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms was on official selection of the Burnt Ends collection at Fantastic Fest 2022.

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