In a future where we have lost the ability to dream, people have turned to Fantasites, a parasite that induces the user’s wildest fantasies. When socially awkward Charles starts using the miracle product he finally meets the girl of his “dreams.” However, Fantasites come with some disturbing side effects that leave his chances with her squirming away.
From a short film of the same title, WORM is the story of a world where humanity no longer dreams. Literally, no one can dream. That ability just sort of…vanished one day. The film doesn’t bother to explain how exactly that happened. In fact, the film makes a point of telling the audience that no one knows how it happened. But here we are, 30 years later, and still no dreams.
I’m gonna be honest…I sought out the original short after I watched this version. The short film won several awards in the Nashville 48-Hour Film Project, including best film, best art direction, and best cinematography. The principle characters in this version are played by the same actors as in the short version.
In this version, society has adapted to the lack of dreaming. One of the coping mechanisms put in place is dog adoptions to help reduce the anxiety caused by lack of REM sleep. This is really just a stop-gap measure to keep everyone from going crazy but not a cure by any means.
Enter Fantasites! The magical parasite you stick in your ear and it gives you dreams. It will make you feel good, and everybody is doing it. Just say yes! Corporate greed cashing in on humanity’s despair just can’t be wrong! These things aren’t cheap, but with the right credit, you can get your little buggies delivered right to your front door. How convienient.
Of course, there are those not buying into the idea of stuffing a worm in your ear. Religious orders claiming that the loss of our dreams is “God’s Will”, the obligatory protestors against the “natural order”, and of course those pesky rabble-rousers at the DEA.
Socially inept Charles (John Ferguson) and his dad (Scott Ferguson, yes actually the actor’s dad in real life) are the landlords of an apartment building. Charles develops an obsession with two of the tenants, Reed and June (Shane O’Brien, Jes Mercer).
Charles tries to fit in with them by adopting a dog of his own (much to his dad’s chagrin) and buying into Fantasites without telling his dad. Charles can only afford the “generics”, though. Reed is getting the premium package, and takes pleasure in making Charles feel like less-than because of it.
After a while, Charles develops real feelings for June, and spends a lot of time “dreaming” about her and trying to find a way to tell her just how much of a douchecanoe Reed is.
June just feels sorry for poor Charles. She and Charles go to the dog park with the canine companions and talk about life, the universe,and everything. June even arranges for a boy’s night with him and Reed, only for Charles to discover Reed is having an affair with his boss, reporter Posey Mapleton (Sarah Shoemaker). Reed is kind of a prick. The awkward just keeps growing.
Charles gets the great idea to swap out his cheapie worms for Reed’s good ones. At first, it works out great but over time this becomes an issue. Apparently “stepping down” the prescription has some side effects.
In fact, long term use of the product seems to be an issue. Addiction is a big problem, as we find out. No matter the drug, there will always be someone who will abuse it. Fantasites are no exception. But there’s so much more to be worried about than addiction.
So those nosy DEA people finally ban Fantasities, and the world for Charles, Reed, and June falls apart. The trade of dream-inducing parasites goes underground and our heroes follow. The film takes a pretty dark turn at this point. We are dragged along with them, wondering how and where this downward spiral will end.
This is a really good allegory for drug use in modern society. Imagine heroin as a pandemic. And while you sorta need some of the set up in the beginning, this longer version is at its best in the last half. The best acting, the best writing, everything.
Usually when I see a film is an expanded version of a short, I tend to favor the original version over the feature length. However, this time the film really expands the scope in a way that takes the story to another level in a good way. it does get a bit slow in the first half, but the information is necessary for later.
Random trivia – In the real world, there is actually a medical condition caused by the lack of REM sleep (the stage of sleep in which you dream) that can have physiological effects on the body, such as weight gain, long term memory problems, increased sensitivity to pain, hallucinations, and a loss of coping skills. It was featured on an episode of Star Trek:Next Gen. Yea…I’m a nerd. Get over it.
I mention this because the film shows all of these symptoms in the users of Fantasites. See, it’s not actually REM sleep these people are getting. It’s like passing out drunk – not actually sleep, just the body dropping from exhaustion.
There’s a lot of high concept stuff going on here, and it’s worth the watch. I won’t say it’s the best film I’ve ever seen, but once I made it through to the second half I was totally involved.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, ten being awesome, I give this film 6 wiggle worms.