Friday, October 8, 2021

#2,631. Lair of the White Worm (1988)


Director Ken Russell brings his usual flash and flair to this 1988 horror comedy about a small English village and the giant, man-eating worm that may prove to be more than just a local legend.

When Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi), a Scottish archaeologist, unearths a dinosaur-like skull on the site of an ancient ruin, it kicks off a chain of events that pits two of the area’s most prominent citizens, Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) and Lord James D’Ampton (a young Hugh Grant), against one another in an epic struggle of good vs. evil.

Grant is at his smarmy best as the oh-so-calm Lord whose ancestor supposedly saved the village centuries ago by slicing a giant snake in half, and the supporting cast, which includes Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis as two sisters who operate a nearby B&B, is also quite good.  But it’s Amanda Donohoe’s charismatic, oft-hilarious turn as Lady Marsh, a Pagan high priestess who has more than a little reptile in her, that steals the show.

As strong as the actors are, however, the real star of Lair of the White Worm is director Ken Russell, whose over-the-top special effects and visual panache perfectly complement the film’s crazy premise. A dream sequence - featuring an enormous white snake, a crucifix, and nuns being raped by Roman soldiers – is trippy as hell, and could have been lifted straight out of the drug-induced hallucination scene in Russell’s Altered States.

Though loosely based on Bram Stoker’s 1911 novel of the same name, Lair of the White Worm is 100% Ken Russell, and that alone is reason enough to see it.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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