|Copyright 2016 by Tim Curran
Worms (UK: Futura, 1979)
Tagline: "When the nightmare ended, the real horror
And now for something completely different. Really. Like
you when I caught sight of this great, grisly cover I was
thinking right away: Yeah! Worms infesting people,
eating 'em right to the bone. Now, I'm not saying that
truly awful things don't happen in this one--particularly
worm-related things--but it's all handled in a much different way than I would
ever have expected. Let's admit a few things here first just to clear the air.
When you read these books, these "nasties", you come to expect certain
things: predictable plots, cardboard characters, and, above all, the roving eye
of third person narration so the author can show you plenty of set pieces of
people getting devoured, dismembered, sliced, diced, barbecued,and drained
dry, thereby illustrating and enhancing the book's particular horror. After all,
this is a nasty, this is pulp horror.
But you don't get that with this one.
It's written in first person and I don't think I've ever come across that before.
James Montague (an obvious pseudonym) doesn't seem to have written any
other horror novels and that's too bad because you know what? This guy can
really write and he can really create interesting characters. Our main
character/narrator here is James Hildebrandt who has come to the village of
Blanely--where it never seems to stop raining--on the Norfolk coast for a
vacation. Blanely has a lovely little bit of local folklore concerning "the worms
of hell" that rise up to punish sinners. More on them later. The whole thing
reads like a British cozy mystery until we meet his shrewish wife who's an
absolute bitch. She treats him like a dog:
"Don't be so stupid, you pathetic little man," she said.
"You'll be lucky if you get anything in my will. Why did I ever have to marry
such a stupid, wet little man?"
Yeah, this girl's a real corker. James has the idea of buying a little cottage in
Blanely and fixing it up and the first thing his wife does is jump his shit,
putting a stop to any such ideas. So James does what any red-blooded
British man would do: he kills her, crushing her beneath a concrete slab. This
gives you an idea of what's going on here. It looks like an accident, so he's
clear. He buys the cottage with his wife's money and right away the worms
begin tormenting him. They invade his cottage. They get in his water pipes
and come out in writhing clods whenever he tries to turn on his taps, they
haunt his dreams, they infest his boathouse, in fact they turn up just about
everywhere. This is where Worms gets complicated. For in your average book
of this sort, the characters either exist to be eaten or to vanquish what's eating
everyone else. Not so here. James becomes increasingly paranoid about the
worms and his wife's murder. His only real friend is Mrs. Valentine whose own
husband died under mysterious circumstances many years before and right
away you peg her rightly as a kook. Soon enough, James has to commit more
murders to cover up his crime as these misguided types often have to in
mysteries. The plot gets increasingly tangled and complex as our characters
foul deeds become intertwined.
Interestingly enough, it's not until the final third of the book that this even
turns into a nasty. That's when the worms attack in numbers. It seems to be
tied in with some sort of accident at a nuclear power plant that's being built.
Montague is a little vague on this. One particular stormy night as the worms
begin creeping under doors and getting into his bed, James finds his
housekeeper on the floor and is sent by Mrs. Valentine to get help but he
can't because the road is washed out, only it's with worms and not water. As
we race towards the end of this one, people drown in worms, worms crash
through windows in gigantic balls, worms engulf cars and slither through the
heating vents, worms burst through doors in floods, worms crawl up noses
and work their way into mouths and even slide between ass cheeks. Gaah!
And when the worm menace is finally stopped, James Hildebrand's troubles
are only beginning, trust me.
Pros: A unique take, interesting and complex characters. It dares to be
Cons: This one doesn't quite go far enough to satisfy the three G's of Nasties:
Ghastly, Gruesome, and Gor-ifying. But what we do get of the worms is pretty
Overall: I would recommend this one for a change of pace. A very intriguing
mix of mystery and horror that surprises at just about every turn and has a
nice little poetic justice type ending.
Three bloody skulls out of five and only because there was not enough grue
and real horror.
Our next Guilty Pleasure:
"It grows on you"