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Film / The Lair of the White Worm

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Good luck trying to charm her.

Lair of the White Worm is a 1988 horror movie directed by Ken Russell; starring Amanda Donohoe and a young Hugh Grant, loosely based on a novel by Bram Stoker.

The film begins with Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi), a Scottish archaeologist, discovering a large reptilian skull in the backyard of English sisters, Mary and Eve Trent. The Trent sisters share with him that their father disappeared in a local legendary cave while on expedition and believe the skull might be connected somehow. This cave was on the property of the D'Ampton family, nobles in the area and the subject of a local legend. Centuries ago, a D'Ampton fought a giant snake in the same cave and killed it by cutting it in half with a sword. This giant snake is referred to in legend (and a rock'n folk song) as the D'Ampton Worm. They soon meet James D'Ampton (Grant), the current heir to the property, and attempt to unravel the mystery.


Meanwhile, returning from a vacation, Lady Sylvia Marsh (Donohoe) returns to her mansion next to the D'Ampton home. Lady Marsh is a well respected member of the area and, of course, happens to be a vampire. It also just so happens that she worships the D'Ampton Worm and is keen on its return. She has her eyes set on James D'Ampton and the sisters, particularly Eve. As it turns out, Lady Marsh needs the blood of a virgin to release the D'Ampton Worm and Eve fits the bill. What follows is a surreal, tongue-in-cheek horror movie filled with the occult, blood sucking, a giant snake, and Amanda Donohoe with a strap-on.


This film provides examples of:

  • And Then John Was a Zombie: The final shot is of Angus in full-fledged vampire mode. It creates a bit of a Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Animalistic Abomination: The D'Ampton Worm is a giant, snake-like dragon (the word worm used to mean dragon a long time ago) and is worshipped by reptilian vampires.
  • Badass Bookworm: Angus is pretty nerdy but isn't afraid to fight vampires and giant snakes.
  • Batman Gambit: Angus and James' preparation to take down Lady Marsh involves research, careful planning, and giant pairs of balls.
  • Between My Legs: A shot of Eve toward the end as she is prepared to be sacrificed.
  • Break the Cutie: It seems this happens to Eve after her virginity is nearly taken away by Lady Marsh.
  • Camp: Quite intentional.
  • Campbell Country: D'Ampton is a small town in rural England and also the site of an ancient dragon and his vampire worshippers.
  • Cat Fight: James has a dream about Lady Marsh and Eve as wrestling flight attendants.
  • Daylight Horror: The vampires can function during the day. The cop-turned-vampire going after Angus is a clear example.
  • Death by Sex: Spending a night with Lady Marsh has a very obvious result.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: James' reaction to Sylvia's The Importance of Being Earnest reference.
  • Eye Scream: The aforementioned vampire cop happens to land on a sundial, ripping an eye out of his socket in a particularly gory shot.
  • Fanservice: Every scene with Amanda Donohoe.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Lady Marsh is very friendly to everyone, but is still a vampire who wants to sacrifice virgins to her snake god.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Lady Marsh attacks while at least partly nude in the end.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Unless it deals with virgin sacrifices.
  • Good Lips, Evil Jaws: Lady Marsh's transformation into gaping-jawed reptilian horror.
  • Groin Attack: An oral attack from a vampire even... Ouch!
  • Human Sacrifice: The D'Ampton Worm needs one in order to come back. It's preferable that the human is a virgin.
  • Homage: The D'Ampton Worm story is very obviously based in part on the Lambton Worm legend
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Angus tries pickled earthworm (a local specialty) before he realizes what it is. He doesn't take it well.
  • Lesbian Vampire: Lady Marsh has sex with men but that seems to be a means to an end when it comes to feeding. She takes a more particular liking to Eve.
  • Monster Progenitor: It's implied that the D'Ampton Worm spawned the snake-like vampires shown in this film. It's also possible that Lady Marsh was one of the first or possibly the first.
  • Mrs. Robinson: A very dark example.
  • Mushroom Samba: Touching the acid left behind by Lady Marsh makes people hallucinate briefly.
  • Nature Abhors a Virgin: Lady Marsh mocks the idea of virginity and is delighted in sacrificing virgins to her snake god.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're Lizard Folk, apparently. The usual weakness toward Christian crosses is also averted as shown when Lady Marsh dissolves a crucifix by spitting acid on it. They can be charmed by listening to rhythmic music, apparently (which isn't how snake charming works, but whatever). They don't drink blood (their fangs are for injecting venom). Oh, and these vampires function in daylight. Lady Marsh at one point is even seen using a sun bed!
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: This is James' first year as Lord Of The Manor and he "[doesn't] give a damn" about his legacy and seems to lament he doesn't have much to do. He is soon given plenty of responsibility when he has to help fight against Lady Marsh.
  • Setting Update: The original novel took place during the Victorian Era but the movie takes place in The '80s, the decade that the movie was made.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: This is a pretty balanced movie with scares and laughs often happening at the same time.
  • Snake Charmer: The vampires are Snake People who can be charmed by bagpipes.
  • Snakes Are Sexy: Combined with a healthy dose of Vampires Are Sex Gods.
  • Something Else Also Rises: That pen in D'Ampton's dream. Of course, the entire movie is just gleefully raunchy and there's a ton of unabashedly sexual symbolism around.
  • The Vamp: Lady Marsh... in more ways than one.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: The D'Ampton Worm prefers this.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: A vampire's natural enemy is the mongoose. It coincides with the snake motif, sure. And yeah, the mongoose ends up getting killed anyway but... still a little silly.
    • Also, playing the bagpipes puts them in a trance briefly. Unless they have earplugs, of course.
  • Wicked Cultured: When discussing the death of the Trent girls' parents, Lady Sylvia says "To lose one parent is unfortunate, to lose two looks like carelessness" and when burning her Snakes and Ladders board in her fireplace she says "Rosebud"

Alternative Title(s): The Lair Of The White Worm


Example of: