Taking place over a single day, in a single stretch of neighboring houses, on a single suburban street, Worm is a crazy, claustrophobic tale of gruesome horror that hearkens back to the days of 1950s b-grade horror movies, re-imagined through the lens of contemporary torture-porn. It's a hell of a lot of fun, a story that wastes no time in getting to the good stuff, and which never lets up, yet somehow managing to maintain its terrifying gore-splattered intensity through to the final page.
Tim Curran is clearly an author who has seen and enjoyed his fair share of monster movies - Tremors most immediately comes to mind - but one who understands that the monsters themselves are only part of the horror. If you really want to bring the horror home, then you allow the monsters to upset the normal, everyday, domestic comforts we so easily take for granted. Let them worm their way (pun intended) into our lives and our homes . . . let them inconvenience us, incapacitate us, and invade the very place we should feel most comfortable . . . and the sense of inescapable dread becomes immediately familiar to the reader.
The true horror of Worm begins with exploding lawns, overflowing toilets, backed-up sinks, and flooded streets. Before long, greasy, slippery, excrement-like worms begin emerging from toilets, sinks, drains, and faucets, wiggling and bubbling their way up from beneath the earth. Just as you're beginning to wonder just how scary a worm can be, the first of them coils up, opens its ravenous maw, and then launches itself forward, tearing through flesh and bone as easily as bathroom doors.
If you're sitting there right now, stuck with a mental image of just such a beast launching itself up from the toilet bowl while you sit above, rest assured that we do indeed go there, exploring the horror of being eaten alive, from the inside, by a horror you never saw coming.
Of course, it takes more than just monsters to sustain a story, and Curran populates the houses of Pine Street with a small cast of well-drawn characters to add a human element to the tale. We fear, we suffer, and we fight alongside them, watching helplessly as friends, family, and neighbors succumb, one after another. It's a largely hopeless situation, and even though you know it's only destined to get worse, once the survivors assemble, you can't fault them for wanting to make a last stand.
It's there, in the last stand, that Curran pushes his tale over the top. We've already seen an unfathomable depth of horror and gore by that point, and it's easy to become a bit desensitized to it all. I won't spoil just how he accomplishes it, but Curran manages to arrange a final confrontation gleefully that surpasses the horrors that have come before.
Like I said, a hell of a lot of fun, and well worth the read!Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins