Review by Sean Boelman
A quirky coming-of-age tale with a concept that is best described as “out there”, Christopher Winterbauer’s directorial debut Wyrm (adapted from his short of the same name) is also surprisingly authentic. A very creative entry in a well-worn genre, this may be a little too tongue-in-cheek for some, but it’s a fun and heartfelt watch.
Set in a retro world where kids wear a collar until they experience their first kiss, the film follows an awkward adolescent boy who is desperate to “pop his collar” all the while dealing with grief over the death of his popular brother. It’s a somewhat standard coming-of-age arc wrapped up in a satire that’s anything but average, giving the film an undeniable sense of originality, even when it leans on tropes.
A lot of the jokes lean on the secondhand embarrassment factor, as the young characters talk about sex in a very frank way. Some of the euphemisms are obvious but hilarious (“popping your collar”), whereas others are a bit more symbolic. There’s a good balance between these more subtle and upfront styles of humor.
The character development in the film is great. Although the sex comedy stuff is often riotous, arguably the more impactful portion of the film explores the sibling relationship between the protagonist and his older sister. It’s interesting to watch how the dynamic between them changes in often humorous ways.
There is also a portion of the film exploring the role of trauma in youth, and while this is largely relegated to a few subplots, these moments will definitely linger in viewers’ minds. The protagonist’s struggle to live within the shadow of his late brother provides some of the most effective emotional moments.
Theo Taplitz gives an absolutely amazing performance in the leading role. He is the very definition of a star in the making. He’s super charming, and while there is obviously a very tongue-in-cheek nature to the film as a whole, it never feels like he’s anything other than a normal teenager. Azure Brandi is also a standout as his sister.
Winterbauer put a lot of effort into the world-building of his film, and it shows, it being a large part of the reason why it is so immersive. The world that he has created, mostly through excellent production design, is uncanny and eccentric, a lot of its charm coming across in many ways.
Wyrm is a charming indie comedy thanks to its commitment to its wacky premise and the unexpected level of insight that it offers. And with how unabashedly weird it is, this has future cult classic status written all over it.
Wyrm screened as a part of the Florida Film Festival, which runs August 7-21 at the Enzian Theater in Orlando, FL.