Lair of the White Worm, a review

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Title screen from Lair of the White Worm

This is the Ken Russell film directly following the equally whacked-out and camp Gothic. This movie is nowhere near as surreal as that one, but it is no less entertaining.

I saw this film a long time ago on VHS and immediately became enamoured with its style, high camp and all round movie goodness. It's not everyone's cup-of-tea, that's a given. It is, in fact, less a cup-of-tea for everyone than what most movies would be. But here, you get the chance to see Hugh Grant circa 1988, Catherine Oxenberg circa 1988 and soft-porn star and vixen Amanda Donohoe circa 1988.

Image capture from Lair of the White Worm

Grant is a young rich country laird who returns to his ancestral manor in England. His friend Angus, played by Peter Capaldi, has unearthed the skull of a large worm-like creature and the horror and fun begins.

It turns out Hugh Grant's home was the ancient site of a pagan cult devoted to the worship of the White Worm God, Dionian, something Grant dismisses as a foolish myth.

Image capture from Lair of the White Worm

It starts off well; a country dance in tune to a wonderful Celtic-style swaggering song in homage of the D'Ampton Worm, as the monster is called. Great Pogues-ish type stuff!

Enter Donohoe: she is the film's dastardly centrepiece, the high priestess of the worm cult and she seduces a number of people, including a hapless schoolboy. At one stage, she bites a policeman and turns him into some sort of snake-lycanthrope. In a homage to cobras, the people so afflicted can be charmed and led by music. Capaldi leads the policeman around playing the bagpipes, which is a high-water mark for camp movies.

There's a few "demented dream sequences" in the film, notably the one Hugh Grant has at night where he envisions Donohoe and Oxenberg having a cat fight aboard a plane.

Image capture from Lair of the White Worm

Oxenberg goes missing, and it turns out she had been kidnapped by Donohoe as a sacrifice to the monstrous worm, which lives in a cavern on Grant's property.

The film has an ambiguous ending, something I quite admired. In summary, it's a weird and wonderful movie that isn't for everyone, but those who do get it will not be disappointed.

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