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“Earworm” leads with some strong performances and a concept that makes your skin crawl, but it can’t decide what type of film it wants to be.

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Though described as horror and sci-fi, at its core, Earworm is about loneliness and how easily manipulated humans can be when they are at their lowest.

Henry Adams (Evan Jones) is our main character, and Jones makes it easy for the audience to really sympathize with him. In this bizarre romance, you’ll be rooting for him to get the girl, Camille (Laura Graver), and overcome his troubles. It’s a treat to see an actor of Jones’ caliber giving such a strong performance in a low-budget horror film, and he is compelling, playing both ends of his character’s spectrum to perfection.

His somewhat sidekick, Greg (Patrick Rooney), is generally a sleazy kind of guy who constantly puts Henry down. Rooney also delivers quite a believable performance, and you really begin to despise this character.

There’s also a subplot about a detective (Richard Lounello) with a failing marriage chasing a murder case, but this gets lost in the film. It’s a plot that gets put on the back burner, and you almost completely forget about it.

I would have really liked to see this element of the story explored more because the way it’s handled with so little context and impact significantly hurts the film.

Once Lounello joins the film full-time, it’s off-putting because you’ve barely spent any time with the character. It’s difficult to care at all.

With a slow descent into madness, we really get to see the horror we were promised.

However, that doesn’t happen until almost an hour in, and I fear that may have been too late.

Sadly, the film gets off to a rocky start. The first five to ten minutes were hard to watch, with certain characters delivering sub-par performances. I powered through a beginning that made me want to tune out, and I was rewarded for my patience.

Once we get to the film’s powerhouse actors, it makes Earworm worth watching.

Directed, written, and produced by Kyle Kleege, I definitely respect the filmmaker’s vision. However, it ends up feeling like two completely different films, and neither one is as fleshed out as needed to be truly effective.

Kleege could have easily leaned more into the horror elements or, instead, focused more on its potentially compelling character-driven story.

The ending is somber, but it ultimately feels like it’s trying to tell a charming, emotional story about social anxiety and how it can profoundly affect someone.

I also took it to be about the very human desire to find someone who accepts you for who you are, even as some people judge and criticize you. To be fair, however, I can’t tell if that was entirely Kleege’s intent. His direction was confusing, and it resulted in a convoluted tale that felt a bit bewildering.

With that said, the meaning I extrapolated from it wasn’t the worst.

While this film suffers from numerous puzzling choices, the standout performance from Jones saves it from being a wasted watch. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 2

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