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Scottish archaeologist Angus Flint discovers an odd skull amid the ruins of a convent that he is excavating. Shortly thereafter, Lady Sylvia Marsh returns to Temple House, a nearby mansion, far earlier than expected. At a party in the village, Angus meets Lord James D'Ampton, who has just inherited his family's land right next to Temple House. Angus learns of the D'Ampton Worm, a huge dragon-snake that an earlier D'Ampton killed by cutting it in half. (There's a pretty catchy rock-folk song that tells the D'Ampton Worm legend.) As people begin disappearing and acting strangely over the next few days, the skull is stolen from Angus's room, and the watch of a missing person is found in a cavern that was the legendary home of the D'Ampton worm. Angus and James discover that there was an ancient cult that worshiped the worm as a god, and they theorize that the creature somehow survived its destruction, but it was trapped inside the cavern. The remainder of the movie shows Angus, James, ...Written by
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'Dr. Who' actor Peter Capaldi plays Angus Flint, an archaeology student who unearths a strange skull from the grounds of a bed & breakfast, where a convent had existed once upon a time. Meanwhile, the seductively sexy young Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) returns to her neighboring home, and more weird things are soon happening. It turns out, there is a local legend in the area, of a nobleman who'd vanquished a hideous reptilian beast - not literally a "worm" - centuries ago. Also mixed up in the plot are that noblemans' descendant, James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant), and lovely sisters Mary (Sammi Davis) and Eve (Catherine Oxenberg).
The director is Ken Russell of such classics as "The Devils", and he also produced and adapted the novel by "Dracula" creator Bram Stoker. So we know going in to expect a fair amount of outrageousness. Fortunately, this film never does get out of control, but it combines some sober drama with some very campy and sometimes hilarious horror. Clearly, it's not meant to be taken all that seriously, especially when we consider the crudely done fantasy sequences envisioned by the characters and the audience. (People who are easily offended will undoubtedly be put off by some of this imagery.) The makeup is amusing, but what's really a hoot is the beast itself, Dionin. Excellent location shooting adds atmosphere.
The actors, commendably, maintain serious expressions. Although he's reputed to refuse to talk about this film, Grant does a good, droll job. Capaldi is a decent hero who, at one point, attempts to attract a reptilian presence by putting on a kilt and playing the bagpipes. Oxenberg and Davis look appropriately scared, Stratford Johns is a solid presence as the butler Peters, and Donohoe, often dressed in very sexy outfits, does appear to be having some real fun as the villainess.
A truly frightening film this is not, but it's quite entertaining just the same.
Eight out of 10.
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