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January 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Scarlet Worm (2011)

Directed By Michael Fredianelli

Reviewed by Greg Goodsell

Print (Aaron Stielstra) is the local dandy is a woebegone California cow town circa 1907. A refined gentleman of taste, his only real creative outlet is in the mutilation of his victim’s bodies. For you see, our “hero” is the local hit man for kindly Mr. Paul (Montgomery Ford aka Brett Halsey, The Godfather Part II). His new assignment is to wipe despicable brother owner Mr. Key (Dan van Husen, Salon Kitty) who is given to performing crude abortions on his staff. Given the marching orders to burn Kley’s brothel down to the ground, Print is given amiable cowpoke Lee (Derek Hertig) to train in the fine art of etiquette, poetry and murder … but things become complicated.

Buy The Scarlet Worm on Blu-ray or DVD

The Scarlet Worm is a highly Gothic western sure to warm the cockles of any horror fan’s heart. Our ostensible leading man looks down the world with disdain at all the morons surrounding him, only to commit acts that would give Hannibal Lechter pause. What he does to a cattle rustler at the very beginning of the story prefigures what’s to come later on in the film. Mr. Paul is a salt-of-the-earth, square-peg-in-a-square-hole kind of guy, who metes out bloody justice to all those who don’t meet up to his standards. Most horrific of all is Mr. Kley, who justifies torture, abortion and murder through his own twisted interpretation of the Bible. In short, The Crimson Worm – the title refers to a parasite mentioned in the Old Testament that to some, prefigures the arrival of the Messiah –is a morality tale in a world where there is no morality. Lee begins a tentative romance with a local prostitute, but that as well is highly negotiable.

The Scarlet Worm is a labor of love made by film fans who wish to pay homage to the “tough guy” movies of the Sixties and Seventies. Filmed on a miniscule budget in Temecula, California, the film is even more impressive given the participation of such seasoned veterans of the spaghetti western (van Husen, Halsey) on hand. Especially notable are the costumes and period settings, and there was just enough money in the kitty for some epic gun battles as well.

On the down side, some of the performances are a tad on the rough side – due to in part to longtime screen star veterans mixing in with the younger, untried talent – and things do get talky from time to time. The Scarlet Worm has style to spare and brains to back up all the fan-favorite movie references.

The DVD is brimming with extras. In addition to a fun “making of” featurette, which implies that the movie was fun to make, there are numerous commentary tracks and tons of trailers. You certainly won’t regret giving this worm a turn.

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