FantasticFest 2019 Movies: WYRM

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Christopher Winterbauer (Writer/Director)
Helen Estabrook (Producer)


Wyrm is a film that brings up words like ‘sweet’, ‘awkward’, ‘touching’, and ‘brutal’, all with an air of 80s nostalgia and an adept sci-fi flourish.

If it sounds like I’m describing some kind of quirky art wine, it’s because I am. This movie is gorgeously shot, incredibly styled, and adorable in all the best ways. But as writer/director Christopher Winterbauer put it, you’d be “hard-pressed to say it’s not an honest story.” I’d agree.

Wyrm is the tale of a boy entering high school in a world where puberty is measured and tracked via clunky collars. To ‘get your collar popped’, you must achieve Level One sexual activity – osculation. (That’s kissing, in case you wondered.) Wyrm (yep, it’s his name) and his sister are living in the shadow of their brother, Dylan, recently deceased. Dylan was sailing through puberty, where Wyrm is… not. With the top son gone, the family is fractured. Dad works, or stays in the bathroom. Mom is on a trek to clear her head.
Wyrm and his sister, Myrcella were best friends, but that’s changing. Meanwhile, Wyrm
documents his brother’s life through interviews he collects on cassette tapes. It’s tragic, and a pointed look at the need he has for the family that’s gone.

The film that follows is a touching look at how lives come together after tragedy, about how
information doesn’t guarantee understanding, and how sometimes things break and never quite repair the same. By the end of the story, it’s about how that’s okay.  I was moved by the care Winterbauer gave to his characters, and the incredible commitment the
entire cast and crew showed to this very precisely-toned movie. Sensitive subject matter and a singular and odd style could have tipped this project any number of ways. Instead it all feels of a piece, and real.  The movie has some great laughs – particularly, any interaction the kids have with their counselors or teachers at school. Wyrm’s uncle Chet, played by ‘Casual’ star Tommy Dewey, gives some great, if also awful, advice throughout the movie. All the people in the story feel true to what they’re going through.

This was described to me as somewhat like Napoleon Dynamite, but I’d disagree. It’s something more in line with what Noah Baumbach or Wes Anderson might do with sci-fi. I can’t wait to see it get wider release, and to see what Winterbauer and company make next.

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Les Weiler has been watching television and movies his entire life. He attended The University of Texas at Austin, and like the majority of UT alums, never left the city again. He has created video games in the late 90s, published an indie comic book in the early 00s, and is always looking for the best path forward. He paints, writes screenplays, and recently discovered podcasting. As co-host of The TV Dudes, Les provides commentary on recent television, and interviews with cast and crew. The Good Die Young provides Les the space to explore cancelled one-season television shows, with deep dives into the episodes and interviews with the creators. His most recent venture, The Unstuck Creative, interviews working creatives about their fear and self-doubt, and how they overcome it and make their art. Les provides reviews, interviews and more for That's My Entertainment. His first loves are sci-fi and horror, but he's not above a good lawyer show or procedural, and has his comic-nerd credibility safely secured. He lives in Austin, TX with his loved ones and his pup, Tiger.