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  Shrooms Fun with fungi
Year: 2007
Director: Paddy Breathnach
Stars: Lindsay Haun, Jack Huston, Max Kasch, Alice Greczyn, Maya Hazen, Rob Hoffman
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Five American students arrive in Ireland, where their old college buddy Jake (Jack Huston) leads them into the woods for the ‘trip of a lifetime’. Dosed on magic mushrooms, brittle, lovelorn Tara (Lindsay Haun) experiences psychic portents of things to come, as giddy highs give way to nightmares. Supernatural terrors pursue Tara and Jake, goofball Troy (Max Kasch), cute hippie Holly (Alice Greczyn), token jerk Bluto (Rob Hoffman) and glamour gal Lisa (Maya Hazen) testing their friendship and sanity, but are they really fleeing monsters? Or is the horror closer to home?

Creepy, intense and unsettling, Shrooms outlines the mother of all bad trips: madness, mayhem and murder. Not the sort of after-effects you want lingering around your college dorm past midnight, but ideal for a heart-pounding horror flick. Paddy Breathnach crafts some skin-crawling imagery and makes the most of his scary, backwoods setting, with slithery branches and hands reaching for bedraggled, shrieking starlets. He and screenwriter Pearse Elliot crib from J-horror (particularly Ring (1998)), Deliverance (1972) and The Blair Witch Project (1999), but their background in drama and quirky comedies brings a fresher perspective than the average horror hack.

In a year when tiresome, hockey-masked murderers have returned with a vengeance (see Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007) for a textbook definition of pointless), Shrooms scores points for an inventive premise that asks viewers to question what is real and what isn’t. Sadly, it doesn’t entirely avoid slasher movie clichés: false scares, a puritan streak (must sex always spell doom?) and that slightly nerdy presumption that deep down, girls are drippy and neurotic and always do the wrong thing. Holly and Lisa are initially introduced as lively, sassy characters but the plot requires they act dumb, wander off alone, try to befriend psychos, etc. A shame, because the dynamic interplay between three, very capable actresses suggests a more probing character study than the film chooses to explore.

Strongly acted throughout, particularly by charismatic Jack Huston (grandson of legendary director John Huston) and leading lady Lindsay Haun (whom horror fans may remember as the murderous moppet from John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (1996)), who handles the bulk of the drama, bristling with restless energy. Horror movies overly dependent upon a big, scary twist risk becoming more of an anecdote than a fully developed story. A solid subtext keeps Psycho (1960) endlessly rewatchable long since its twist filtered into the public consciousness. By contrast, the initially gasp-inducing What Lies Beneath (2000) does not reward repeat viewings. One suspects Shrooms will fall into this latter category. Not enough is made of a key character’s pent-up frustration and resentment to justify the final descent into madness. These reservations aside, Shrooms’ finer qualities deserve praise: it’s inventive, ambitious and, though not without humour (watch out for the talking cow, who swears like a trooper!), is mercifully free of irony and sincere in its desire to scare. A heady trip, well worth sampling.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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