Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shrooms (2007) - Not Very Jarring

On the Menu: SHROOMS (2007)
Ingredients: Lindsey Haun, Jack Huston, Max Kasch, Maya Hazen, Alice Greczyn, Robert Hoffman, Don Wycherley and Sean McGinley. Directed by Paddy Breathnach. Run time: 84 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite:  I found out about this movie almost two years ago. One of my friends, Matt, had reviewed it on Flixster (a movie application on Facebook). It wasn't a glowing review. He gave it 1 1/2 stars, and warned it was a waste of time. Obviously, I didn't run out and get it. It wasn't until about a couple months ago that I realized SHROOMS was brought to us by Magnet Releasing (BRONSON, et al). And, since I've developed a particular affinity for Magnet movies, I had to snag this despite Matt's review.

The story has five friends traveling to Ireland to meet up with another friend, Jake (Huston), who is a mushroom expert. Jake plans for everyone to set up camp in a forest where there are choice 'shrooms. Come to find out, an abandoned youth prison and two brothers straight from DELIVERANCE call the woods home. The female lead, Tara (Haun), misses out on Jake's Poisonous Mushrooms 101 class and almost kills herself with her first bite.

Tara's trips seem to give her ominous premonitions about her friends. She keeps seeing a hooded figure creeping through the woods. No one else sees it, but they're all tripping on mushroom soup, so reality is muddled.

Second Helping: Surprisingly, I did take the time to watch the movie again. The DVD provided a commentary with Breathnach, producer Paddy McDonald and writer Pearse Elliott. It's always interesting to hear the filmmakers' take on a movie, especially when you, as a viewer, have a few questions you feel need to be answered. They definitely shed some light on camera tricks and how they wanted the film to look. Elliott apparently had previous knowledge of tripping on mushrooms, which led to the screenplay. Breathnach said he thought of MINORITY REPORT when doing the premonition scenes, and, looking back, you can definitely see the resemblance.

Tough to Swallow: Well, personally, I didn't connect with any of the characters. None of them are very likable, so it didn't bother me who got knocked off next.

The movie mixed together different horror genres (psychological, slasher, supernatural/ghost story), but it disappointed with the twist ending.
The killer's point-of-view is shown numerous times in the movie. The killer spies upon every one of the six main characters, plus the two brothers. Just saying. Despite the movie being full of hallucinatory trips, it's highly illogical that someone can be in two places at once.

Plus, they're not really premonitions if they're presently happening.

I wish the movie would have given us more of the two brothers, Black Brother and the creepy character wearing the bag over its head. And, one of the main characters is named Bluto. Really?

There were also a couple of tiny mistakes in the deleted scenes. The title for Deleted Scene 004 is Halo of Pirhanas. It should be Piranhas. The first alternate ending is numbered 007 (as if it were sectioned off with the alternate scenes), but the second ending is numbered 002.

Also, it would have been really nice to have had English subtitles available for the movie (and the commentary actually). The DVD does provide Spanish subtitles, which were of no help to me.

Something to Chew On: It's highly doubtful, but some of you might recognize Huston from ABC's short-lived "Eastwick." In this movie, watching him is like watching a mediocre Johnny Depp voiced by Colin Farrell.

Breathnach previously helmed BLOW DRY with Josh Hartnett, Bill Nighy and Alan Rickman. It's a romantic comedy set around a British Hairdressing championship, and it was surprisingly good (I'm not a big Hartnett fan).
Haun wrote and performed the song "Curveball," which is on the movie's soundtrack (it's the last song played during the closing credits).

The movie garnered nominations for Best Film and Best Director for Film at the Irish Film and Television Awards. I guess 2007 was a slow year for Irish filmmakers.

The film currently has a 4.7 user rating on IMDb.com (4,659 votes).

Sides: Aside from the commentary, the DVD includes 5 deleted scenes, 6 alternate scenes, 2 alternate endings and 2 bloopers.

Aftertaste: I will say that I was impressed with some of the editing techniques used to show us the ins and outs of the trips. Some frames were doubled, superimposed or delayed to create the illusion of an altered state. I also liked how they braced the camera onto Haun for when Tara awakens from a "premonition." They also utilized day-for-night shooting very effectively. I'm sure they shot that way because of budget reasons, but I think the hallucinatory scenes at night worked better with the bluer look along with the frame delays. I liked the DVD cover art, too. They created the look of a skull using mushrooms (similar to how CABIN FEVER did the same thing with trees).

The location couldn't have been more perfect as far as look goes. The trees are so close together that oftentimes they blur together and make it appear that something is lurking between them when there really isn't.

I didn't care for any of the characters, but, then again, none of the characters seem to like each other and they are supposed to be friends. They are all stereotypical (pothead, jock, hippie, hussy, etc.), but I have to admit I was impressed with Haun's acting.

All that being said, as a straight horror movie, SHROOMS disappoints. There's only one satisfyingly original death scene (however, there is an oddly amusing scene with a talking cow and another one with the two brothers). There's only one bloody scene, and there aren't any real scares either. The creepiness lies in the atmosphere and the hooded figure, which owes a lot to Asian horror a la RINGU and JU-ON.

For me, the twist ending didn't work only because throughout the movie we see each character through the killer's eyes, so the end just didn't make sense. It would have been a good, although unoriginal, twist otherwise.

I think the filmmakers should have stuck to the supernatural and psychological horror, and not relied so heavily on the slasher element. We only see one death through the skewed perception of someone on drugs. Shouldn't that have been the way all the kills were done?

Instead, SHROOMS is a mediocre trip.


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