The Lair of the White Worm (1988) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
79 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A Hidden Classic worthy of Cult Status
WriterDave29 December 2001
I've now seen Ken Russell's adaptation of Bram Stoker's story about half a dozen times, each at different points in my life. This is one of those few movies that seems to age very well and get better with each viewing. Never a big fan of Russell, his over the top visual style seems right at home in this sometimes campy, sometimes scary, always entertaining horror film. But what makes this film stand far above others in its genre is the fact that it is in actuality a wicked black comedy. Every time I see it i pick up on something new that is in the background of a scene or some piece of dialogue I previously overlooked and I burst out laughing. The film features probably the single best line of any movie ever made, delivered with dead-pan foppishness by a not-yet famous Hugh Grant. "I believe we probably have another reptile on the premises." Watch it and you'll understand why it's so funny. It's all about context. While some may find many flaws in this production, I recommend just going with the flow and trusting Russel and his cast, who all also seem to be in on the joke. Amanda Donohoe as the evil serpentine priestess and Stratford Johns as Hugh Grant's butler are particularly on target with every line delivered. I'm going out on a limb and giving this a 10/10. In actuality it probably deserves and 8/10 at best. But it is one of my personal faves and seems to age like a fine wine.
88 out of 98 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
That song sticks in your head for a while.
Hey_Sweden26 March 2017
'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.
13 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Hilarious campy trash full of nudge, nudge, wink, wink smutty humor.
Infofreak8 May 2003
I'm not going to strain my brain trying to work out just what Ken Russell was trying to achieve with 'The Lair Of The White Worm', but he ended up with a semi-classic slice of campy, sleazy trash that is full of nudge, nudge, wink, wink smutty humor. There's absolutely no way anyone could take this one seriously! I haven't read Bram Stoker's novel so I don't know how much the movie has to do with it, but Russell takes EVERY opportunity for to show a phallic symbol or a puerile gag, and that, added to the tongue in cheek performances from the cast (especially Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant and the delicious Amanda Donohoe), makes this one of the silliest and most entertaining movies you'll ever see. Donohoe is just brilliant, the monster is cheesy, the blatant gags will make you roll your eyes and groan, and there are a few extraordinary Russell touches in the very brief, quasi-psychedelic "visions" experienced by a few of the characters. 'The Lair Of The White Worm' is certainly not for everybody, but there's nothing else quite like it, not even in Russell's very strange ouevre, and if you "get it" it's a complete hoot!
36 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A great date movie!
zmaturin15 June 1999
I've heard the complaints before, from men of all walks of life: "SHE wants to watch some syrupy romantic slush starring Hugh Grant, I want to watch something with hot, naked, snake-worshipping chicks!"

Well, complain no more! Here's a flick that's got both in one! That's right, England-cum-America's favorite foppish, eye-lid-fluttering sex symbol does battle with naked half-snake-half-human devil worshippers, giant white worms, and the forces of evil!

Well, actually Hugh only kills one snake-human hybrid, and it's an old lady. And he keeps pretty far away from the action-packed finale face-off, letting his odd shut-in pal Angus do all the fighting. But you DO get to see the star of "Notting Hill" slice an old lady in half with a broad sword, and that alone is worth the price of admission!

I enjoyed this movie, what with it's quaint, folksy atmosphere, it's kilt-wearin' heroes, and it's sexy villainess who seduces a hapless boy scout (!) into entering her hot tub of evil. There's even public-access-esque dream sequences where a Sid & Marty Krofft-type snake puppet molests Jesus Christ while nuns are tortured- and who doesn't want to see that?

A very strange movie, to say the least.
70 out of 84 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Alluring,sensuous, witty and Ken Russell.
Cemetarygirl26 November 2005
Of all the Ken Russell films this is my favourite. I found it extremely sensuous and the snake imagery a 'classic'. This is also one of the best Hugh Grant movies out considering he has become hopelessly typecast these days. Russell uses three different versions of the legend of the "Dampton" worm and this includes that written by Bram Stoker. The other two based on stories within Britain. And surprisingly enough the tale is closer to them than Stoker. Amanda Donohoe was simply stunning as Sylvia and she delivered her lines with charm and wit, and her costuming was slithering skintight scrumptiously slinky. I even bought a snakes and ladders set just like the one "Rosebud" that she threw into the flames. The worm was brilliant and deserved an Oscar for his role as he arose from the depth of the cave. I also love the song played in the beginning too. My only irk is that Catherines voice appears to be dubbed by someone else. One of the high points for me was when Sylvia sprayed venom over the cross. My reason for voting this movie so high is because it delivers on so many levels and it is a 'classic' in my book.
38 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
do not pass up the chance to see this film
mark-hammond25 July 2005
Why is this film consistently downgraded as "dire" etc...? It is one of the funniest I have ever seen. It is sexy, camp, and laughs at its own pretensions. Hugh is a delicious parody of himself Ice. the character he was born to play. Amanda Donahoe is the sexiest snake priestess ever. It contains the psychedelic trademarks of the Russell mindset: exquisitely blasphemous, gaudy, kinky and tripped out. I love introducing people to this film - if I can read their personality right that is. I've got it wrong once or twice and some just find it confusing and weird...others see these characteristics as creative virtues. I give it a 10 - nobody could (or has yet to my knowledge*) done this sort of genre-play better. (*corrections invited - I would love to find something else in this pigeonhole as good.)
46 out of 58 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Classic Kenny Russell
ashwetherall120 July 2009
Do you know what I think. Do you really care. Well whether you do or don't here goes.

I believe that one day Ken Russell woke up and said " I'm sick and tired of being accused by critics of making over the top exploitation movies masquerading as art with naked women, men showing their TODGERS and mad nuns being raped. This time I'm going to make an a movie of class. I'm going to get the brightest and the best of new British talent and use a story by a well known author. Well by the end of that week cuddly Ken had all the elements in place. A story horror by Bram stoker, author of Dracula. A great cast made up of the beautiful Catherine Oxenberg, A wonderful young character actress called Sami Davis, an up and coming Scottish actor called Peter Capaldi, a classy actress called Amanda Donohoe.. Oh and some bloke called Hugh or something. Add a few more out of work BBC Thespians to the mix and you have a classy supernatural film that will thrill the critics and maybe win some awards.

Then Ken thought… F**K IT.

I'm going to make a crass exploitive films with Nuns being raped, naked women, giant snakes, Boy scouts being bitten on their TODGERS, Stone Dildos, Jesus on a cross, Bagpipes ( well one of the cast is a Scott). Then I'm going to re-dub my lead actress. Make sure the actors look like they've forgotten their lines and have a really bad song sung by badly dubbed singers during a party scene.

Ken you are Amazing. Lair of the White worm is Amazing. Its so bad, you can't help but watch it over and over. All the cast went on to bigger and better things. Well except that Hugh bloke? Not sure what happened to him. But I'm still sure all the actors and crew will never forget there work on Lair of the White Worm. Its the only movie where Ken Russell can plead GUILTY with a big grin on his face to all the rubbish critics have written about his work. P.S I HOPE THEY GOT THE JOKE…? …. I DID!
16 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Campy, Yet Better-Than Most Horror-Fare!
myboigie4 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Being one of the few who has read Bram Stoker's original-novel, I can say without reservation that Ken Russell's vision of the story is far-superior. Why? You would have to read the novel, but I can vouch that it is unfilmable, and would put any audience to-sleep. It's not bad, and it has some excellent-ideas, but that's really what sums Stoker up-best--he had good concepts and a background-story, but a boring execution. Stoker went to great-lengths to show us how much he hated the aristocracy, just as in Dracula, but it gets tedious and too-talky. Also, the Irishman was dying of some brain-disease, so the story is pretty fragmented. He died shortly after completing it in 1912. But the general-ideas are great, and the story predates Lovecraft's similar-obsessions with cosmic-horror. A faithful-version on film would not be very exciting. Russell, being Russell, intuited the sexual-subtext of the story, and takes it to realms of comic-transcendence.

Russell saw the exquisite-potential in the story, and even spiced-it-up further with his wonderful blend of sexual-obsession and high-camp. He also lends the story a very-serious mysticism. It's ripping! Amada Donohoe stands-out as Lady Sylvia Marsh, an acolyte of a once-dead "sect" of vampiric serpent-worshippers, and she shines here. It is probably her best-performance in a movie. There are so-many great-moments in this film, and many are very witty and funny, with plenty-of sex-jokes (this is a Ken Russell film, after-all). Russell wisely let the film be campy and tongue-in-cheek, since he wanted the audience to laugh with the story rather than at it! Characters practically wink at the camera after delivering their witty-lines, and Hugh Grant is pretty funny, he gets it. This has to be the first time most American audiences saw Grant in a starring-role, and it left a big-impression on me.

The theme I enjoyed-most was the idea of pagan-religions being dormant for Centuries, and then reasserting-themselves in our modern-world (in many-forms, like folklore, songs, and even in physical-manifestations), it's an exciting-concept with all the sexual-implications Russell loves trotting-out. There's also atmosphere-galore, and some very pointed-jabs at Orthodox-Christianity that the cynical will enjoy. What I really loved, though, was how campy the whole-affair is, since much of this is for laughs. The film also has an interesting new take on a kind-of serpent-vampirism. Sex was the basis in most Victorian-literature, so Russell has a field-day with it, and why not? He lays-bare Stoker's sexual-obsessions, and has them out-in-the-open, not really a major-shift from the original-novel! The title says-it-all, doesn't it?

Lesbianism, paganism, mystery, religion, archaeology, humor, murder, monsters--how can you lose? This was part of a three-picture deal that director Ken Russell had with Vestron pictures, and included the excellent "Gothic" (1986) and D.H. Lawrence's "The Rainbow" (1989). The 1980s was possibly his purest period where he had a very free-hand in his productions. It should be noted that Russell is a great adapter of D. H. Lawrence, and has done some justice to Aldous Huxley with "The Devils" (his only political-film that surely ranks as horror), so literature is no problem for this most-controversial director. His infatuation with Britain's folklore is so apparent in this and his other films! In-fact, there is a scene where a genuine folk-song about the "Dampton Worm" is sung, since the legend is a real one from an old Anglo-Saxon kingdom.

Pioneer actually got this one right for-once. The film is widescreen, and has a very-good transfer. The sound is stereo, and it is fairly active. Now, if they can get the rest of the catalog right...
18 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great 80's horror-comedy starring Hugh Grant
michaelbr884 February 2010
Lair Of The White Worm is a great British made horror movie filled with English style black humor. It is based off the Bram Stoker novel and directed by English director Ken Russell (Gothic, Altered States). It is about a small English country town, that celebrates the centuries old slaying of a giant snake god that once lived there with an annual party extravaganza, hosted by Lord James D'Ampton, who's family slayed the giant serpent centuries earlier. But some of the co-eds have now discovered a giant snake skull in their excavated yard and are about to find out that the legend of the snake god and its human sacrifice is still very much alive today, and they are about to find themselves a part of it.

Whereas the Bram Stoker novel is a very serious and creepy turn of the century story, the movie version of Lair Of The White Worm took a lot of liberties from the book. The emphasis is still on scares, but with a late 80's twist full of horror-comedy, great one-liners and wicked, naughty fun.

Hugh Grant is at his finest as the young and friendly wealthy English gentleman landlord D'Ampton, who has returned from an Air Force tour of duty, and now leads his friends to unlock the mystery they are now apart of. His girlfriend, played by attractive Catherine Oxenberg is well cast, as is Amanda Donahue as the mysterious and alluring Lady Silvia Marsh who may very well be connected to the ancient snake legend.

Ken Russell fans will be in for a real treat with his usual blending of eerie and fantasy dream sequences inter-cut with reality. Ken Russell does a great job as a visual director here making the camera help tell his story with talent moving in and out of wide angle lenses to emphasis the weirdness and unreality of the subject manner. Dick Bush's colorful night lit cinematography full of shadows adds to the story's atmosphere. The viewer also will see more in the movie each time with repeated viewings. Highly recommended.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fun in the tradition of Rocky Horror
luludavis12 December 2002
This is a kitschy, sexy and funny movie. Ken Russel(the director of Whore and Track 29)is at his best. Taboos are endless. Scottish rock, demon worship, S&M and the defiling of Christian icons. Amanda Donohoe is luscious as the blood-sucking, dildo wielding Priestess of the Worm.

Catherine Oxenberg is a perfect blonde damsel in distress and Hugh Grant is at his sexy, bored playboy of the manor born. The production value is not the greatest but there are moments when the not-so-special effects lend an aire of underground theater to the proceedings. I highly recommend this film.
29 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Weird and Wild World of Ken Russell: Lair of the White Worm.
Captain_Couth30 July 2005
The Lair of the White Worm (1988) was a bizarre horror film that was based upon one of the last stories written by Bram Stroker whilst he was suffering from Bright's disease. This helped the strange prose and it was augmented by the strange mind of weird film maker Ken Russell. The movie is also about a strange mythology and occultism that is as old as time itself.

The movie was a surrealistic trip and if you enjoy Ken Russell's other films then you're going to enjoy this one big time. Filled with wild imagery and fascinating set pieces will almost certainly keep you busy. Amanda Donahoe is quite compelling as the Worm's keeper with an infectious bite. Sammi Davis (no not the singer wise guys) Catherine Oxenberg and Hugh Grant co-star in this odd horror film. I'll never look at snakes and ladders the same way ever again.

Highly recommended for Ken Russel fans.
26 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Stop Hating on This Movie
Sccrream97-112 March 2007
I would recommend "Lair of the White Worm" to anyone who likes camp or is into enjoyable genre films. Sure, it doesn't quite make this film about worms? Vampires? Snakes? All three? The plot is quite remiss, as well, but that's besides the point. You'll have a good laugh and remember this for decades. The best part is definitely seeing Hugh Grant keep a straight face while cutting vampire-snake women in half. I'm proud to have it in my DVD collection.

If you enjoy this film, I would also suggest ROBOCOP, TROLL 1 & 2, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, JACK FROST (the horror film 1997), and THE WICKER MAN.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
so bad, it's good
Victor300012 January 2002
This movie definitely belongs in the, "it's so bad it's good" category. However, the more times I see it, I'm thinking it's more like, "It's so bad, it's GREAT"! A good movie is in some ways is like a great plate of Italian food. It needs a firm base, some zesty sauce, and just the right amount of cheese.

I first heard about this movie when I was in high school. Everyone around me was catching it on cable except me. Everyone seemed to have the same opinion of the movie, "man, it's so weird". When I finally got to see the movie, we were over at a party at a practical strangers house in a town far from our own at 3 in the morning; an uncomfortable situation. But, when this movie came on, for some reason it made everything alright. I saw it years later in a bargain bin VHS rack and I had to get it. It was by far the best $5 I've ever spent. This is one of those movies that is great to watch late at night with a good buzz on. I'm sure it annoys the hell out of my wife, but this movie makes me laugh like a little kid.

Filmwise, the movie is terribly made (or, if you're a Ken Russel fan, wonderfully made). There's holes in the script, the acting is bad, the props even worse; but there are so many insanely bad puns in this movie that it gets more entertaining each time you see it.

I know I haven't said too much about the movie, but perhaps that's for the best. To sum it all up, it's a great flick if you're in the mood for a real cheesy B grade movie.
25 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fantastic gem.
tvcarsd19 June 2018
Well written and acted. Its probably more of a mystery with supernatural theme than horror, until the end. Very sexy performance by Amanda Donahoe too which made it all the more worth watching. A fun trip back to the 80's with snakes. Stop reading, go watch.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
my favorite movie ever- classic Russel
jhearse5 January 2009
May not really rate a 10/10 for great movies like Citizen Kane, or It's A Wonderful Life or something, but it has everything a movie needs - fun and excitement. Ken Russel loves any excuse to have a psychedelic dream/hallucination scene, and or some sacrilegious rant but this one goes all out. The most psychedelic movie scene ever made is probably the last "tank" scene in Altered States, but this movie has it all.

and Amanda Donahoe is probably the sexiest villain ever created!

For background , my next fav. is The Wicker Man (1973 original, the recent Nic Cage remake was awful). Then "Elizabeth" with Blanchet, heartbreaking, and Gladiator (Ridley Scott. With Russell Crow). Scott is probably the better director, but not as fun as Russel.

But for all of us who love this movie - READ THE BOOK by Stoker! (Don't remember the URL, but there are a lot of old books published for free online, for free download and I found it and printed the whole thing out. maybe or some such?) Russel made something fun and watchable out of a complete mess of a book. In the original, there's a few extra characters that serve no purpose and it's impossible to follow the plot as characters are in one place then appear somewhere else that makes no sense and there's tons of logical flaws in it. There is kind of a cool, kite in a thunder storm thing.

Finally, my band did a version of the theme song for fun. Then we researched more lyrics and it turns out that it's a very old (1800's) traditional song from the British isles, based on an actual legend. With two more verses that the movie didn't use.

So, to wrap up.. it's a wonderful movie based on a terrible novel that was based on a fun song based on a silly legend.

Kudos for Russel for even thinking of doing it and doing such a great job.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A truly warped and brilliant comic-horror movie!
This is an excellent film that puts the fun back into Horror Films. Ken Russel uses only the title and basic plot outline of Bram Stoker's underrated novel and goes over the top with everything. The result is the most outrageous, outlandish, funny and just damm wierd horror film in years. Sure it's not in the slightest bit scary, but how can you argue with Hugh Grant hopping round the set like a hyperactive bunny, Amanda Donohoe biting a boy scout where it hurts the most and maidens being sacrificed to a giant worm? Fast paced lunacy and mayhem is the name of the game here in a film that should please everyone able to suspend their logic for 90 minutes. I loved it. My rating - 8 out of 10.
18 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Doesn't every Scottish archaeologist own a mongoose and a hand grenade?
BA_Harrison20 October 2013
Before Hugh Grant hit the big-time playing floppy-haired fops in rom-coms, he mostly played floppy haired-fops in costume period dramas; an exception to this was Ken Russell's The Lair of The White Worm (1988), in which Hugh went against type by playing modern-day floppy-haired fop Lord James D'Ampton, who teams up with archaeologist Angus Flint (played by the new Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi) and B&B owner Mary Trent (Sammi Davis) to defeat a pagan snake-woman (Amanda Donohoe) who worships a giant, ancient, subterranean wyrm (another name for dragon).

This being a Russell movie, there is plenty of surreal weirdness on offer, with psychedelic dream sequences, Christian-baiting blasphemous imagery, phallic symbolism, and cheap titillation courtesy of Donohoe, who spends a lot of her time naked, and Catherine Oxenberg, who is stripped to her undies as a sacrifice for the creature. However, what could have been extremely controversial actually proves to be rather amusing thanks to the director's tongue-in-cheek B-movie approach (some might call it 'camp') and the tacky special effects; ultimately, this is silly, harmless fun for the cult movie crowd.

6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for the Concorde dream sequence, which is downright trippy.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Amanda Donohoe is splendid
christopher-underwood11 January 2007
This is silly and not particularly well made, presumably due to budgetary restraints, but it is good fun. Bit slower to get going than I remember on video but some more explicit imagery also than I remember. Everyone seems to have had fun in the making and if the dialogue is a bit hit and miss there is some really nice stuff. I don't think this really fits, as some have suggested, into the , so bad it's good category, but I guess it's headed in that direction. Amanda Donohoe is splendid and Hugh Grant acceptable as ever. Special effects, like the dialogue are not always 'special' but there are great moments and it's always good looking, particularly Amanda Donohoe!
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great fun
robertasmith4 January 2007
This film is great fun and has a host of well known British Thespians in the early part of their careers.

Production quality is not great, and the story is a little stretched, but it is very enjoyable. The Derbyshire scenery is wonderful and there are typical Ken Russell touches throughout.

Amanda Donahoe has never looked so good and HughGrant gives a performance in a style that hasn't changed since - and why should it! Peter capaldi as a Scottish archaeologist gives a manic performance that pre dates the time team, and on who they must base their dotty and populist approach to archaeology.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I've gotta find a copy....
9jbb12 April 2003
Wow, I can't believe this movie is actually in here....I first saw it when I was 15, drunk at a buddy's house, and afterwards I thought I hallucinated the whole affair. A lot has been said about the horrendous production values (that huge snake in the pit??? WTF?) and the overobvious sexual imagery (I have the image of that dildo scarred on my mind forever), so all I'll say is this: even though this movie ranks in the lowest of my faves, the sheer entertainment value in watching it can't be beat. Definately a high camp classic....
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the best Irish/Celtic Horror Films.
wes263 February 1999
A lavish, and kinky version of Bram Stoker's seldom read story (which I imagine was quite different). The Worm of the title is actually a Wyrm, an old English term for snake or dragon. The followers of this beast are a combination of snakes and vampires. They spit venom and can paralyze or transform their victims with a bite.

The film makes interesting use of Pagan and Christian mythology, which could have been quite controversial if it hadn't come from Ken Russell whose blasphemies seem to be taken in good humor.

Amanda Donohue is icy and sardonic as the head of the snake cult and the film is worth seeing for her alone (A friend told me that she looked like how he always pictured the White Queen from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).
16 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
del-davis18 December 2018
Just in case you didn't get the gist from my title, I'll reiterate - this is THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE!
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
a fun & horrific little film
latymer1416 October 2003
nobody in the cast was famous when this was made, although everybody moved on to something, Donohoe to LA Law, Oxenberg to made-for-TV-movies and Grant to semi-superstardom. that fact makes it all the more interesting as the sexual tension, surreal dream sequences, and low-to-mid production values combine for a really fun and surprisingly witty couple of hours. Stoker was a sick fellow, there's no doubt, and so was Ken Russell, but you'll laugh more than freak.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Quirky, amusing, sometimes surreal horror about a snake cult in England
Wuchakk22 December 2018
Directed & written by Ken Russell and loosely based on Bram Stoker's novel, "The Lair of the White Worm" (1988) chronicles events in England when a young archeologist (Peter Capaldi) uncovers a skull of some unknown beast near a bed & breakfast run by two sisters (Sammi Davis & Catherine Oxenberg). These three and Eve's beau (Hugh Grant) soon stumble upon an ancient snake cult led by the eccentric Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe), who dwells at a lavish estate nearby.

The movie is a creative and entertaining creature feature reminiscent in tone & theme of "Squirm" (1976), but with Russell's well-known offbeat excesses. The "creatures" are vampire-like snake people plus a gigantic serpent at the close, both of which recall the snake worshipers & giant serpents from "Conan the Barbarian" (1982).

There are some iconic cinematic images, like Donohoe as the vampiric snake lady, not to mention a few well done horror scenes, like a snake woman who's cut in half, but still wiggles with furious intent.

The snake cult is diabolical in an anti-Christ way and I can see why some viewers might find the movie shocking and offensive, like the weird nun-raping flashback. Yet everything's so exaggerated and sometimes cheesy with a bit o' humor thrown in that the film can't be taken very seriously, which negates it from being shocking or disturbing. Fun in a horrific way? Yes. Disturbing? No. Also, keep in mind that horror villains/monsters are SUPPOSED to drip with ee-vil and be shocking. The question is, do they win or do the noble protagonists win?

On the female front, the chief snake lady thinks she's hotter than she really is as Donohoe amusingly hams it up. Meanwhile Catherine Oxenberg as Eve is a semi-highlight, particularly in the last act.

The film runs 1 hour, 33 minutes and was shot entirely in England (Hertfordshire; Manifold Valley, Staffordshire; Peak District National Park; and Derbyshire). Thor's Cave in Manifold Valley is magnificent.

2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Almost a spoof of Hammer Horror
dave13-113 April 2012
Ken Russell is an acquired taste at best, but here his patented over- the-top religious hysteria finds an appropriate muse with Amanda Donohoe as the last member of a snake cult who kills passers-by to feed her pet Reptile God. Hugh Grant and Catherine Oxenberg co-star as a young couple caught up in her web. Hugh is charming and atypically serious, with none of the stammering, gibbering silliness that later became his trademark, and Amanda Donohoe shifts gears beautifully from evil seductress to seemingly innocent neighbor, creating great comic moments when accidentally caught between gears. The movie has a great dreary look thanks to its setting in rural northern England, which creates a wonderful visual contrast to Amanda's exotic, white marble vampire's nest. The movie deftly mixes scary visuals and winking silliness as the movie's twin horror plots start to entwine one another (like snakes in a caduceus) - locals go on the hunt for the monster snake, while victims of Donohoe's bite start turning into undead zombies! Kooky fun; this is a very unusual movie that can be watched again and again and still enjoyed.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed