Earworm (2024)

“Earworm”: A Slow Descent into Madness That Fails to Deliver [REVIEW]

“Earworm,” the latest offering from writer-director Kyle Kleege, attempts to burrow its way into this cerebral realm, promising a tale of psychological terror that will linger long after the final credits roll. However, much like the elusive and often misunderstood concept of an earworm itself, the film proves to be a perplexing and ultimately unsatisfying experience, leaving viewers grasping for a melody that never quite materializes.

At the heart of “Earworm” lies Henry Adams, a socially awkward individual portrayed with commendable sincerity by Evan Jones. Henry’s struggle with loneliness and his desperate search for connection and acceptance is a relatable plight, one that should serve as the emotional anchor of the film. As Henry reluctantly accepts an invitation to join a mysterious self-help group, the stage seems set for a harrowing journey into the depths of his fragile psyche. Regrettably, this promising setup is quickly derailed by a convoluted narrative that fails to fully explore the potential of its premise.

The initial intrigue of “Earworm” stems from Jones’s nuanced performance as the pitiable yet sympathetic Henry. He exudes an understated pathos that immediately endears him to the audience – we’ve all known the social outcast desperately seeking connection and acceptance. Jones’s emotional vulnerability in these early scenes is palpable, making Henry’s decision to join the shadowy self-help group, despite evident red flags, disturbingly plausible. This is a man so starved for companionship that he willingly ignores the growing dread.

It’s in these preliminaries that Kleege shows true potential for psychological horror rooted in waking nightmares we can all relate to. Henry’s awkward stammering and alienation from co-workers captures the lived experience of crippling social anxiety in a viscerally uncomfortable way. The premise of a sinister group preying on such insecurities to lure the lonely into their cult-like circle is rife with unsettling possibilities.

Earworm” quickly loses its narrative threads as Henry’s journey kicks into an uneven second act. The detective sub-plot involving a string of bizarre murders feels clumsily tacked-on, a rejected “Se7en” rewrite given short shrift. We’re given little reason to invest in Richard Lounello’s detective beyond hoary crime procedural tropes. His tenuous connections to the main plot contribute to an increasingly convoluted narrative tangle.

Likewise, the arrival of Laura Graver’s Camille as a potential romantic interest for Henry lands with a dull thud. Their chemistry is non-existent, a forced subplot that smacks of a desperate attempt to inject mainstream accessibility into decidedly fringe horror territory. Instead of enriching Henry’s emotional arc, Camille’s insertion muddles his motivations further.

Despite the best efforts of its cast, particularly Evan Jones, who delivers a committed performance as the troubled Henry, “Earworm” ultimately fails to leave a lasting impact. The film’s inability to craft a cohesive and compelling narrative, combined with its reliance on tired horror tropes and underdeveloped characters, results in a viewing experience that is more frustrating than frightening.

“Earworm” is a film that promises much but delivers little. It is a missed opportunity to explore the depths of the human psyche and the horrors that can lurk within the mind. While the premise is undeniably intriguing, the execution falls short, leaving audiences with a discordant melody that fails to linger long after the credits have rolled.

Rating: 4/10

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