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John’s Horror Corner: The Lair of the White Worm (1988), this Hugh Grant horror movie is way wackier and more exploitative than I remembered!

October 4, 2021

MY CALL:  This preposterous, somewhat exploitative movie is highly enjoyable for its hokiness and ambition. So if you’re in the mood for Hugh Grant, a lot of ridiculous phallic imagery and a nudie snake-vampire woman, then this nonsense is for you!  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Lair of the White WormFor much more serious movies investigating the occult, try Angel Heart (1987) or Lord of Illusions (1995). Also consider The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), which is rather less ridiculous (while still bonkers at times) and swaps an archaeologist for an anthropologist.

When an archaeologist (Peter Capaldi; House of 9, World War Z) unearths a strange skull in his landlord’s (Sammi Davis; Lionheart) back yard, locals from the nearby village begin to disappear as increasingly strange things transpire.

These country locals celebrate a “great white worm” of sorts in the form of festivities, thematic dragon-slaying song and dance, and tentacle-rich catering at the estate of the snooty Lord James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant; Extreme Measures). James takes an interest in the recent skull discovery, but not before Lady Sylvia steals it for herself.

Lady Sylvia (Amanda Donohoe; Starship Troopers 3) is a suspicious oddity at every turn, whether happily sucking the venom from a fresh wound, baring her conspicuously long viper fangs while spitting poison at a crucifix, or hosting a hitchhiking British boyscout to a skimpy lingerie game of Shoots and Ladders (no, I’m still not kidding)… and then unfurls her fangs to bite his… well, you know. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

As with Altered States (1980), writer and director Ken Russell (Altered States, Gothic) adapts Bram Stoker’s story with strong, dramatic religious imagery. Seeing Jesus on the cross entangled and mauled by a great white serpent as Roman soldiers rape a cadre of nuns certainly sends a message! In fact, the scene is quite relentlessly exploitative. Subsequent scenes imply phallic imagery, spiked penises (no really, I’m not kidding) and spike-impaled nuns littered with much nudity and blood.

I’m not sure if it’s more accurate to call this a quirky British horror comedy, or just a zany B-movie with some powdered horror flavoring added. Bagpipes are used for snake-charming, a snake woman is chopped in half leaving both halves writhing independently, and Lady Sylvia eventually goes full on naked snake-vampire. Sylvia’s subterranean lair includes an exploitation movie feel as she struts around topless wearing some sort of “death dildo strap-on” (no, I’m still not kidding or exaggerating at all) and binds a woman like a scantily clad virgin sacrifice in her underwear. Don’t even get me started on the white worm monster which vaguely resembles a… ahem. This finale gets ridiculous.

Ultimately, this movie remains highly watchable and quite enjoyable for its hokiness. Like a slower-paced, somewhat toned-down Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991), it’s preposterous and it knows it. So if you’re in the mood for Hugh Grant, a lot of ridiculous phallic imagery and a nudie snake-vampire woman… well, you know if this is your kind of movie!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. rdfranciswriter permalink
    October 5, 2021 3:51 pm

    Yep. I too, returned to the this flick for review week of vamp flicks. I still love it. Even for a Hugh Grant flick.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      October 9, 2021 5:28 pm

      This would pair well with the wildness of Vamp 1985. 😉

      • rdfranciswriter permalink
        October 10, 2021 7:31 am

        Yes. Exactly!

  2. rdfranciswriter permalink
    October 10, 2021 6:53 pm

    The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

  3. October 13, 2021 6:40 pm

    You gotta love Ken Russell for his irreverence. I like this movie rather than love it, bit it has the KR stamp all over it.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      October 14, 2021 6:53 pm

      I dig his style. I wish he had done more horror.

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