Wormwood (2017) :: Bad Show, Excellent Movie
Directed by master documentarian Errol Morris, this Netflix series is absolutely fascinating yet bogged down by its format.
It’s 6 episodes, 1 hour each, telling the true story of a mysterious death.
This would’ve been a brilliant / iconic 2-hour movie.
Instead, it’s a bold television experiment… with mixed results. Let’s explore.
First, what’s it about?
Real quick — Wormwood tells the story of a man who “fell or jumped” out of a 13 story window in 1953.
The documentary is told from the point-of-view of his son, who’s now an elder man.
It describes how he first learned about his father’s death, and the subsequent realizations / discoveries he’s made in the many decades since then.
It gets psychedelic very fast.
The story goes from somebody “falling or jumping” out a New York City hotel window; to the CIA illegally drugging this person with LSD, making him freak out & jump from the window; to the discovery that the federal government ordered this person’s assassination. That the government, at least in 1953, had an official state protocol to assassinate dissident citizens in a manner that looked like an accident.
The biggest flaw of the series is the rhythm. And that’s a pretty big one. Mr. Morris’s style was held back by the constraints of Netflix’s episodic format, not empowered.
How can a story so fascinating be — let’s just say it — boring?
It’s an aesthetic crime. This show should be 100% heart racing.
The slow burn diminishes the effect here. It diminishes the entire experience. Wormwood, as it stands, is best enjoyed analytically… which is anti-aesthetic. There’s flourishes of great spectacle, too… Which only punctuates the movie that coulda been.
If you’re expecting a total experience along the lines of Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control (one of my favorite movies of all time), it ain’t here chief.
But if you want to drown out 6 hours with brilliant psychedelia & don’t mind some of it drones at a slow pace (makes good background twaddle)… then check out Wormwood.
Or, most strangely, if you just want to learn about the official underground assassination program of the United States, then yes! Definitely definitely check out Wormwood!