Hugh Grant Starred In One Of The Weirdest Horror Movies Ever And It’s Streaming For Free

Hugh Grant starred in The Lair of the White Worm, now streaming on Tubi.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

To many audiences, Hugh Grant will forever be fixed in mind as one of the premier romantic comedy actors of the 1990s. Despite his more recent turns as the melodramatic enemy of a small plush bear, a tattooed guy who wants to eat Tom Hanks, and his future, no doubt revelatory role in the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Hugh Grant will likely always be the stammering, boyishly lovable man from Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill to most. However, early in his career, he starred in what is one of the single weirdest horror movies ever, which you can stream for free with ads on Tubi: The Lair of the White Worm

The Lair of the White Worm was released in 1988, starring Hugh Grant, an equally young Peter Capaldi, and Amanda Donohoe, and was directed by the notorious/acclaimed filmmaker Ken Russell. As the GenreVision podcast recently noted, it is a movie that walks the knife-edge between horror and campiness, but it does it like few before or after. Technically, the film was adapted from a novel of the same name by Dracula author Bram Stoker, but only in the very loosest semblance of plot and definitely not in spirit. 

A lot of that is due to Ken Russell himself, who was known for visually flamboyant, transgressive films like his version of the Who’s rock opera Tommy (which eventually led to Jack Black doing a Tina Turner impression) and his biopic of the 19th-century composer Franz Liszt, which featured Ringo Starr as the Pope and Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman as Thor, God of Thunder. In short, Ken Russell is not the kind of filmmaker who is not going to turn The Lair of the White Worm into a bizarre, borderline incomprehensible, but incredibly watchable kind of fever dream.

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The Lair of the White Worm opens with future Doctor Who Peter Capaldi as an archaeology student who unearths an enormous skull near his English Midlands bed and breakfast, which seems to be that of some kind of huge snake. The movie never gets more traditionally horror-like than these few moments, which promise the emergence of some kind of snake monster that takes a long time to get there. In the meantime, we are introduced to Hugh Grant as the scion of the local aristocracy (whose ancestor is credited with slaying a primordial, dragon-like “wyrm”) and Amanda Donohue as Lady Sylvia Marsh, a beautiful woman who lives alone at the mysterious Temple House.

In truth, The Lair of the White Worm is barely interested in hiding what is going on, plotwise. Within minutes of appearing, Amanda Donohue reveals a mouthful of fangs and spits burning venom on a crucifix, plus there are multiple fire-filled visions of a roaring white snake demon wrapped around Jesus on the cross. Eventually, Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi piece together that a local girl (Catherine Oxenberg) is the virginal reincarnation of a medieval nun, who Amanda Donohue intends to sacrifice to the primordial snake god Dionin.

Dionin has been trapped beneath the earth since it was wounded by Hugh Grant’s ancestor, while its immortal priestess Amanda Donohue seduces horny teenagers and feeds them to it. The movie very clearly shows its comedic chops with a scene in which a paralyzed boy is immersed in a giant bathtub while the latex-clad priestess proclaims the glory of her god, only to be miffed by a sudden knock on the door mid-speech. The Lair of the White Worm is a very odd movie that does not quite hang together plotwise, but no one can say it does not have comedic timing. 

Reportedly, Hugh Grant has viewed The Lair of the White Worm as something of an embarrassment, which is both understandable and silly. The movie does not have the staid British prestige of his early Merchant-Ivory work like Maurice, nor the mass appeal of his later romantic comedies with Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock. But on the other hand, it does have two different Doctors Who, which is more than Two Weeks Notice can say.

The Lair of the White Worm was always destined to be something of a cult film, fittingly for a movie about a forgotten religion based around human sacrifice and subterranean worm gods. Hugh Grant should lighten up a little.