Trollin’ on Netflix: “The Lair of the White Worm”

by Michael Hunley. 0 Comments

As someone who admittedly has no life, nothing delights me on a Friday night as much as finding a new movie to stream on Netflix Instant. It’s a pity, though, that aside from the always-reliable monthly picks from fellow blogger Colin McGuire, the majority of the films available on streaming are … pretty bad. As in, direct-to-LaserDisc bad. Particularly in one of my favorite genres — horror.

The thing is, however, that the worse a horror movie is, the more I end up loving it. There are very few things in life as enjoyable as watching an atrociously cheesy scary movie, with terrible actors who appeared to have graduated from the Kristen Stewart School of Non-Acting and special effects that look like they were put together in Microsoft Paint. You’re not laughing with these films and actors, you’re laughing at them, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful experience.

And as someone who refuses to not finish a film once I’ve started it (don’t even TRY and get me to walk out of a movie in the theaters, cuz it ain’t gonna happen), I watch the entirety of these messes — and now, I’ll be putting this hobby of mine to good use with my new feature, Trollin’ on Netflix, where I share with you, my half-a-dozen readers, the most delightfully awful movies I can find to stream.

And for my first entry … “THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM!”

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You guys …

This movie …

It’s just …

Whut.

This curio British flick — about a small English town that’s home to a mystical snake god and its servant, the seductive Lady Sylvia Marsh, who’s on the hunt for its latest sacrifice —is such a nutty delight, full of all the bizarro, campy qualities that make my heart sing: cheap special effects utilizing the best in ’80s-era public-access television green screens; a giant snake-worm puppet that looks like it was made using the discarded parts of one of the malfunctioning mechanical “Jaws” sharks that sunk to the bottom of the ocean; and self-consciously silly dialogue (a character early on asks Lady Marsh if she has any children, and she responds, “Only when there are no men around,” so, yes, it’s THAT sort of movie).

Plus, there’s this:

I haven’t even mentioned the dream sequence where a giant snake attacks Jesus on the cross.

Surprisingly, “Lair,” released in 1988, carries some actual behind-the-scenes pedigree: It’s based on a novel by Bram Stoker; was directed by the Oscar-nominated, giddily-over-the-top filmmaker Ken Russell (most famous for making Ann-Margret splash around in baked beans and laundry detergent in the film adaptation of “The Who’s Tommy”); and stars a very young Hugh Grant and future “Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi (both with impossibly floppy ’80s hair).

But “Lair” is also a complete mess. The tongue-in-cheek, go-for-broke approach that Russell uses apparently was not passed down to his leading actors, who constantly appear as if they’re struggling with whether to treat the material as if it’s a Merchant-Ivory production or an episode of “Scooby-Doo.”

A scene toward the end — when Capaldi discovers that music can control the humans who have turned into vampire-snake demons (did I mention there were vampire-snake demons in this movie?) and saves himself from an attack by playing the bagpipes — is so weird, and Capaldi seems so uncomfortable, and it is just movie magic.

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Only Amanda Donohoe, playing the immortal snake servant, sinks her teeth (SNAKE PUN! You’re welcome) into the role, camping it up and working that ridiculousness like the rent was due yesterday.

In terms of awful horror movies on Netflix, “Lair” is an anomaly — it’s fairly well made, is purposely nutty and wears its campiness on its sleeve. The schadenfreude effect may not work quite as well here as it does for, say, “C.H.U.D.,” but on its own intentionally schlocky terms, “Lair” is just delightful. You have to love a film that has an endless supply of moments that make you go, “Huh?”

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