In the world of horror there are few things scarier or more disturbing than the scenarios that come too close to home. Fatal Pictures and writer/director Richard Powell deliver a new short entitled Worm, which peeks under the rock of our public education system. The story follows a high school teacher, Geoffrey Dodd, rotting away from the inside. Internalized with the broken dreams of a failed future, Geoffrey seeks escape with the construction of his novel, but is plagued by the social banality that surrounds him. Mirroring the sentiments of Falling Down, Geoffrey silently judges the futile efforts exerted by his students. He regards their skills and understanding as less than sub-par and that feeling is extended to his colleagues. Burnt out and unappreciated, the hatred seethes under Geoffrey’s façade that he barely holds up to the rest of the world. Geoffrey’s cynical approach to life is unparalleled by anything I’ve witnessed before. His steel barbed interior is hidden by a faulty visage that seems to be slipping away each passing moment. Geoffrey doesn’t encourage his students; he wishes to hold them back from ever experiencing the success has passed him by.
At moments you seem to understand the scorn and hatred that has bubbled over within Geoffrey, almost empathisizing with his situation. He’s a forgotten cog in a broken machine grinding away with no reward and no recognition. Such is the state of affairs for today’s educators, where tragedy seems buried under the surface waiting to sprout. The film pulls on those heartstrings taking the story into darker territory. It seems that Geoffrey seeks to change his state of affairs by escaping his hum-drum existence with a female student that he has been obsessing over. His forbidden, unrequited love fuels his narcissism to the point of serious contemplation to solving his problems through violence on a scale comparable in tragedy only to Columbine. The most disturbing elements of the film are the internalized anger and frustration that allows for no other escape except through pain and heartache. You may not see the birth of this psychopath, but it’s their acts of transgression that forever leave their mark. Like the film’s title suggests, no one knows how a good apple goes bad until it’s far too late.
The film plays out like a twisted episode of Boy Meets World, a narrated tale of despair bottled up and shaken, where our Mr. Feeny is just waiting to explode. The cinematography is straight forward and delivers a familiarity to this untapped subject matter. The acting is straight forward, offering the familiarity of being in this dark time in the understanding of teenage angst and those forced to deal with it daily. On the surface Worm could almost play as an episode of Degrassi High or My So Called Life without the dialogue. It’s the tonality of the writing that crafts such an uneasy short film and warrants an equally uneasy need to know more. Worm is dark and potent, like a poison not meant to be handled because of how deeply it permeates its audience.