A wild, often hilarious descent into madness, “All Jacked Up” is deviant, distasteful, and demented — which is precisely why you should watch!
Where do I begin with Alex Phillips’ All Jacked Up And Full Of Worms? This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. And that’s not because it’s a bad movie. In fact, I kind of fell in love with it. It’s because this movie is totally insane and almost impossible to describe.
Right off the bat, I will tell you this isn’t for everyone.
Audiences looking for a cohesive story, strong narrative, or any kind of emotional or elevated horror may be disappointed. All Jacked Up And Full Of Worms isn’t going to give you that. What it does provide is a trippy, joy-inducing descent into a world filled with characters that would live comfortably in a John Waters movie.
Fans of the transgressive, boundary-pushing filmmaker or cult gems like Street Trash will instantly feel right in their comfort zone watching this film.
The movie follows Roscoe (Phillip Andre Botello), Benny (Trevor Dawkins), and Samantha (Betsey Brown) as they connect and fall in love through their use of hallucinogenic earthworms. Yes, you read that right.
I suspect this movie was intended to upset, disturb and offend, and it succeeds on all those fronts.
It sometimes feels like it tries a little too hard to be offbeat, but it also has a strong undercurrent of humor — very, very dark humor.
We meet Roscoe, a maintenance man in a scuzzy, sleazy love hotel, as he and his girlfriend — along with Jared, who she has invited to join them — are performing a drug-fuelled ritual to connect to their inner souls. It feels like Roscoe is supposed to be the main focus of the movie. For me, however, the reason to watch is Benny.
Oh, boy, Benny. Here we go.
Benny takes delivery of a package, and we are immediately thrown into one of the more fucked up elements of the incredibly loose narrative. As Benny opens the package and starts talking to the contents, cooing over his new “baby” and promising to raise “him” up to be a man, viewers are left to guess what exactly Benny is talking to. It doesn’t take long to find out.
And when we do, it’s definitely shocking, bordering on distasteful, and will doubtless trigger many people. In fact, if you aren’t freaked out, you should probably seek help.
Benny is a character that, in less competent hands, would be very easy to vilify.
But Dawkins plays Benny with such a naive charm that he becomes, if not likable, at least sympathetic and pitiable.
He is the epitome of every loser in every movie ever.
The dysfunctional Benny tries to hook up with Samantha, a prostitute at the hotel Roscoe works. Unfortunately, he finds himself unable to perform sexually. So, to fill the time he has paid for, he and Samantha start talking and getting to know each other. He tells her that he wants a baby and says that she can be the mother. Because of this revelation, Samantha starts to treat him like she is his mother, comforting him and listening to him.
Samantha also offers him a compact case filled with earthworms, which she claims have hallucinogenic properties.
Benny refuses to eat them as they are living creatures, a moral decision that is in direct conflict with the lack of morality displayed in pretty much every other area of his life.
Roscoe eventually gets his hands on the worms and has no problem trying them. He discovers they do indeed offer a very intense trip, and he eventually persuades Benny to try them as well. As they trip together, they fall in love and set off in search of more worms.
In a really disturbing twist of fate, they soon discover that the “magic” works actually come from the intestines of fresh murder victims.
On their journey to chase the elusive high, they reconnect with Samantha. And the audience is taken on a strange, disjointed, unsettling journey as our trio encounters an aging, murderous Juggalo and his girlfriend, Samantha’s pimp, Roscoe’s girlfriend, and her lover, Jared.
All Jacked Up And Full Of Worms includes some beautiful little nuances.
Pay attention to the name badge Benny starts to wear. It had me laughing hysterically. There’s also a really, really messed up version of the Mary and Joseph story that’s quite a treat.
Perhaps what I loved most was the nods to other cult classics, or at least what I interpreted as such. It’s a wonderfully odd film, so it can be difficult to know what’s purposeful or just plain wacky for the sake of being wacky. If I’m correct, there were nods to A Serbian Film, Bad Taste, and The Greasy Strangler, just to name a few. I do hope I’m correct, as these subtle homages really enhanced my enjoyment of the film.
As I’ve already mentioned, this film seems to pay the biggest tribute to John Waters, or at least to his style of filmmaking.
If you go into this film expecting and desiring that sort of Waters-esque depravity and unhinged surrealism, you’ll have a great time.
It’s not without its flaws, however. I was grateful for the short run time; it clocks in at a brisk 72 minutes. I’m not confident it has enough substance to hold up to a more prolonged viewing. Sometimes films like this seem to try so hard to shock and offend that it can feel a bit overwrought. In addition, the unrelenting quirkiness may turn off some viewers who aren’t prepared for that kind of midnight movie madness.
Seriously, I can’t stress enough how absolutely bananas this movie is. And that’s either a huge compliment or a turn-off, depending on your perspective.
I personally had a great time with All Jacked Up And Full Of Worms.
It’s easy to see why it caused such a buzz on the festival circuit. It’s tailor-made for genre fans who are liberal in their tastes and have an appetite for anything off the beaten path.
This is the kind of film you need to be prepared for. I always hate seeing negative reviews of an intentionally odd and subversive film, typically from viewers who expected something entirely different than what the film was prepared to deliver.
I am pleased to note, however, that it currently has a respectable 61% on Rotten Tomatoes (it had a much higher score during its initial festival run, where it screened at midnight showings for the perfect target audience). That’s a solid score from critics, considering how much of a niche film this is and how much it askews traditional narrative storytelling.
I have reservations about recommending All Jacked Up And Full Of Worms to everyone. But if you fall into the film’s target audience, which I suspect you might if you’re reading this Weird Wednesday column, I feel confident you’ll love it. I did.