Jack Huston, Lindsay Haun, Robert Hoffman, Maya Hazen, Max Kasch, Alice Greczyn, Don Wycherley, Sean McGinley / Fiction / English
Six go mad in the country.
Horror movies are all about intense identification – which is why they persistently strive to portray the latest versions of “everyman” and “everywoman”. The more we identify, the more we share in the fear. The more afraid we get, the more we ask ourselves “What would I do in that situation?”
Shrooms breaks that identification process in terrifying fashion, by throwing in a whole extra challenge. Here, the question becomes: “What would I do in that situation, if I was messed up out of my head and had no clue what was real and what wasn’t?” Shrooms combines the swirly, fathomless trip movie with slasher horror – and until the very end of the film, it’s not apparent which level of reality is the more dependable. Are these teenaged drug tourists – who have come over from the States to rural Ireland with the sole intention of abusing naturally-occurring psychedelics – imagining the whole ordeal? Or, conversely, is the cushioning effect of the trip protecting them from the full horror of what’s really happening?
Lindsey Haun plays Tara, who’s particularly nervous about the visit to Ireland on account of some unresolved sexual tension with British host Jake (Jack Huston). With her are two mismatched couples: good girl Holly (Alice Greczyn) with stoner dude Troy (Max Kasch), and macho soccer lunk Bluto (Robert Hoffman) with prissy Lisa (Maya Hazen). It’s not a gang with much natural fellow-feeling, which makes it a bit of a rash move to start ingesting strong hallucinogenics. Which are known to make a person paranoid. Particularly in a really scary forest. Which also harbours a derelict Catholic orphanage, where bad things have been done to children over many decades...
The mere idea of such a place would probably be sufficient to trigger a bad trip. The presence within the woods of crazed, drooling ex-residents of the orphanage, and shadowy visions that might just be the ghosts of sadistic priests ... well, that takes things to another level. Soon, members of the group are starting to go missing; and among those who remain, bitchy arguments and lovers’ tiffs take very nasty turns.
Though not parodic exactly – there’s no Scream-style collusion with the audience – Shrooms is pleasingly conscious of its own silliness, and doesn’t treasure any of its characters too much to make them fair game. The result is a film that’s deliriously funny, and no-holds-barred scary: it never lets you know where it’s going to go. Irish director Paddy Breathnach has made a wildly entertaining cautionary tale: brutal, hilarious, and definitely best viewed straight.
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