Monday, August 25, 2008


“According to the ancient Irish druids, they believed it was like a border to another dimension. They gave the ability to commune with the dead, uncontrollable ferocity, shape-shifting, and, last but not least, foresight, the gift of premonition.”

Thus says Jake (Factory Girl’s Jack Huston, soon to be seen in the Vikings vs. alien extravaganza, Outlander) of the effects of ingesting the “dreaded Death’s Head fungi” (if, of course, it doesn’t kill you first).
See, Jake’s about to give a bunch of young Americans the trip of a lifetime in the cold forests of the Irish boondocks.
At least, that’s the plan, before things go horribly awry (as they often do in these types of movies), and people start dropping like flies (again, as they often do in these types of movies).

Now, with a premise that kicks off with a bunch of kids who travel all the way to Ireland just to get high on mushrooms, Paddy Breathnach’s Shrooms initially does nothing to endear itself to me.
As I’ve mentioned ‘round these parts before, I have little patience for characters who are simply asking for it. When you start munching on any old fungus that you find in the middle of a forest, or start tripping by yourself in the middle of the night, well, let’s just say I’d rather reserve my sympathy for pregnant women and scruffy orphans.
Throw in a local legend involving a Black Brother, a Lonely Twin, and a Feral Boy (which is told to a bunch of impressionable, and later on, drug-addled bunch of dead meat walking), and the results are pretty much as expected.

That also goes for the climactic twist, which is telegraphed rather early on in the film’s running time, and makes for an incredulous resolution to Shrooms’ goings-on.
Is the “twist” plausible? Perhaps. It even actually makes some sort of cautionary sense.
But with the manner in which the narrative unfolds, one has to wonder, Isn’t that putting a terrible strain on the laws of space and time?

Twist aside though, my problem with Shrooms is that it features characters that engender no sympathy, and thus, leave the audience without a care as to their welfare.
You know you’re in heaps of trouble when the would-be victims (who include Alice Greczyn from TV's Windfall and Step Up 2: The Streets' Robert Hoffman) start whimpering “This isn’t happening,” and “I should never have taken those mushrooms,” and all you can think of—rather uncharitably—is, Well, that’s what you get for being a bunch of raging gits.
Granted, Shrooms has its merits, primarily the rather good cinematography by Nanu Segal (who’s shot music videos for the likes of Soft Cell, Shed 7, and Super Furry Animals, and has also worked with Breathnach on a West Coast Cooler advert). But with characters that aren’t terribly sympathetic, the film soon degenerates into a visually agreeable, though largely unengaging cinematic experience.

What I find most curious about this entire enterprise is the fact that the first time I crossed paths with Breathnach, it was with Blow Dry, the comedy with the tag line “Love Is In The Hair,” about the British Hairdressing Championship, that had a killer cast which included Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Bill Nighy, and Rachel Griffiths. (Though they were partially off-set by the casting of Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook…)
Blow Dry was a nice little comedy in that British feel-good underdog-emerges-triumphant school which includes entries like The Full Monty, Brassed Off, and Kinky Boots, to name a few. (It’s a telling point that Simon Beaufoy wrote both The Full Monty and Brassed Off.)
So it was odd to see Breathnach turn to horror with Shrooms, without even stopping at the horror-comedy midpoint. (Breathnach’s next film, Freakdog, is again apparently a straight-up horror entry.)

At any rate, Shrooms, like Jonathan Levine’s All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, is a post-millennial slasher that looks great, but has its share of problems. (Just for the record, I believe All The Boys is the better deal.)
And while Shrooms is a passable enough watch, with a few bits here and there that work, it isn’t quite the wild, balls-out trip I was hoping for.

(Shrooms UK quad courtesy of [design by Hoo-Ha]; images courtesy of

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