A couple tidbits about Andrew Bowser’s gritty black-and-white whodunit “Worm,” before we get into this thing:
- It is one unbroken, 90-minute-long shot. (You read that correctly.)
- That one 90-minute-long shot comes from a Go Pro Hero 2 camera. Bowser claims it’s the first feature-length film to be shot on such a machine.
- The Go Pro 2 camera is affixed to Bowser’s chest for the entirety of the movie, capturing his stationary face and upper body and some stuff to each side and behind him. (See the above screenshot for an example. You can also see what the apparatus looks like at the production stills section of the film’s official website, if you wanna.)
While the film is technically set in Guthrie, Bowser’s titular misfit, Worm, is himself the film’s real setting, as he totes the audience around wherever he goes, like a baby kangaroo or an infant in a sling. The restrained point of view will frustrate some more than others (let’s be real, 90 minutes is a long time to watch footage of one dude’s face) but those who outright dismiss the film for it would also dismiss an original work of southern gothic filmmaking whose characters would fit right in to a Flannery O’Connor story or a Drive-By Truckers album. And while “Worm”’s meditation on morality isn’t nearly as nuanced as these works, it still successfully invests its audience in its protagonist’s plight and manages to throw them for a couple loops along the way.
So at the beginning of this unbroken, 90-minute shot we meet Worm, a greasy blur between the lines of hero and anti-hero, as he’s digging a hole somewhere in the woods around Guthrie, a shady task he’d accepted from a man named Byron who promised him a large sum in return. “There’s just the matter of the money I’m still owed,” he repeats, practicing in between phone calls to the mysterious foreman in an effort to minimize his noticeable stutter. The police soon arrest Worm outside town upon the discovery that a couple was murdered the night previous, and he responds by headbutting one of them and leaping off a bridge in handcuffs, an escape made all the more daring by the knowledge that it’s part of one long, unbroken shot. No stunt doubles.
Watching Bowser (who also wrote the script, directed, edited, and co-produced) play Worm reminded me of John Steinbeck’s Lennie Small, a man taken advantage of for his naïve, simple nature and good faith. Like Lennie, Worm’s on the lam and forced into duress, under which he’s incapable of thinking clearly. Bowser portrays the character admirably, never breaking once in the hour and a half, which is no small task when you consider that his face was about two feet away from that Go Pro.
After a series of double-crossings, twists, and turns, Worm winds up staging another visceral escape from police custody en route to a big reveal and bloody showdown at film’s end. It’s not without some boring parts though: You may want to consider slipping out for a drink anytime Worm hops on a new form of transportation by himself, because a few minutes of solo driving and muttering are gonna follow. But overall I’d classify “Worm” as a successful indie experiment that proves feature-length films still have new nooks and crannies worth exploring.