Norman (Timothy Goff) is a little uneasy about his current job. Working opposite shifts with a sickly old man (David Weindel), and sharing the same desk, Norman seems to be the only one who isn’t constantly being beset upon by a coughing fit. Then again, he’s also not drinking the coffee everyone seems addicted to, favoring the less desirable water fountain, and he’s started seeing small glow worms all over his office.
When he brings his concerns to his co-workers and superiors, they usually respond by suggesting he drink some coffee. Norman knows something is up, but what that is, and what it ultimately means for him and everyone else, is the mystery he’s obsessed with solving. Problem is, when he gets his answers, will that make things better, or worse?
Rajah Samaroo’s Worm Free Society takes a look into a dark world of delusive office routine. Norman isn’t even sure what his job entails, only that he seems to be failing. Meanwhile the clandestine nature of the sickness permeating those around him, and what their legacy means for him and society at large, spurs his curiosity on. Again, he may finally get the answers he seeks, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to do much about it, even if he continues to fall out of step.
On the technical side of things, while the cinematography and composition makes for a sufficiently dark and dismal bit of office drudgery (that seems to exist in an abandoned warehouse), the audio mix lets the film down in spots. In quite a few instances, I found myself adjusting the volume, or the settings of the speakers, in an effort to better understand the dialogue. Sometimes it is clear and perfectly mixed, other times it gets lost unless you really strain to hear it. The result is that I had to watch sections of the film a couple times in order to make sure I caught all the revelations involved. This isn’t always going to be an option for an audience, say if they see it at a film fest or other environment where they don’t have control over the volume or rewind, so it’d be nice if the audio mix was given another pass.
The pacing of this one is also deliberate, and while that fits the monotonous tone of the piece, I do think it could’ve progressed its narrative along in a quicker fashion. For every minute a short film drifts over twenty, it had better be exceptional, and that isn’t the case here. It establishes its mystery early enough that it doesn’t need to spin its wheels as much as it does; a tighter edit would do wonders for keeping the momentum moving forward.
Overall, I can’t say that I’m entirely sure I was on board with what Worm Free Society was trying to do. While certain elements of the narrative are very obviously spelled out, particularly by the end, and other revelations establish the connections between characters that you may not grasp initially, I still don’t know if the overall point of the story worked for me, in a literal or metaphorical sense. What do Norman’s eventual choices really mean, if anything? Do they have to mean anything? I guess that’s more telling about me than the film, but while I basically enjoyed the darkly sci-fi tale of routine and unseen puppermasters, I wasn’t completely blown away by it. This coupled with the areas where the film wasn’t up to technical snuff, and you get a middle of the road experience. Not quite entirely “meh,” but nothing I’d recommend if asked.
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