Now available on DVD
Lindsey Haun as Tara
Jack Huston as Jake
Max Kasch as Troy
Maya Hazen as Lisa
Alice Greczyn as Holly
Robert Hoffman as Bluto
Directed by Paddy Breathnach
One of my favorite recent movies was Christopher Smith’s Severance, which got a blink and you’ll miss it theatrical release. It was described as The Office meets Friday the 13th, and that’s fair, though a bit slighting. Well, now we have Shrooms, and that could be referred to as Dazed and Confused meets Friday the 13th. Incidentally, it also shares Severance‘s bluish look, not to mention a similar locale (a seeming fortress in the middle of the woods) for the finale.
Shrooms concerns a group of Americans (led by the Village of the Damned remake’s Lindsay Haun) who travel to Ireland to, well, eat shrooms. Their guide is Jake (Jack Huston) and while Tara (Haun) wants to enjoy some of the Irish culture and landscape, the rest of them just want to get high. Within 10 minutes, they have set up camp, and a few minutes later, the ‘shroom eating begins. From then on, it’s pretty much a nonstop slasher stalk scene sprinkled with occasional “trip” scenes. We are constantly wondering if what they are seeing (and running from) is real or just imaginary, and the balance is nicely presented throughout.
I was surprised how much the horror actually outweighed the comedic/drug type scenes. I was expecting an hour of them just goofing off before anything began to happen, but we get our first kill around the half hour mark, with another every 10 minutes or so (there are only 6 characters, so they can’t kill ’em off too quickly). And even when they aren’t being slaughtered (or are they?), there is an element of survival horror as well â they are lost in the woods, without cell phones, and possibly poisoned by the bad mushrooms. They manage to wring a lot of tension out of a fairly simple premise. That’s not to say it’s entirely without humor; how many movies do you know have a joke about frog semen? There’s also a talking cow hallucination that actually works; it’s a case of less being more. Since we are spared endless scenes of the kids seeing things and laughing while getting higher and higher, the occasional stoner gag is much more tolerable.
One thing that didn’t work so well was a subplot about Haun being able to see the future in her dreams, thanks to some literally magic mushrooms that she eats early on. Not only does this ability seem very inconsistent, but it’s also out of place in the long run. The killer does have a motive, and once everything is revealed, the entire ‘premonition’ idea seems pointless and even a bit of a cheat.
Luckily, Haun and the others are relatively likeable. You won’t be crying when they are killed, but you won’t beg for their demise either. The actors do a decent job of this, especially when they aren’t given any real characterization. A bit too much time is spent on two of the girls fighting over their respective boyfriends, but at the same time, it’s one of the few things that writer Pearse Elliott did to try to develop them.
In terms of blood and gore, gorehounds will likely be disappointed, but there’s still a few gags to enjoy, particularly the first big kill, which involves the last place a man would ever want to see a giant wound on his person. There are even a few effective creep out scenes â at one point the “slasher” is seen sliding under the legs of the intended victim, and its creepy as hell.
The DVD comes packed with some nice extras, including a commentary track by director Paddy Breathnach and producer Paddy McDonald. There are also some deleted scenes and bloopers. An “Alternate Ending” is promised, but this is a bit misleading, the deleted material concerns the epilogue â the actual ending is the same.
Your tolerance for both slashers and stoners will factor in on how much or little you will enjoy Shrooms. I found it to be better than I expected, and while nothing spectacular, it was well made and looked great (the film was shot on digital, and for the most part, simulates film flawlessly). Let’s put it this way, I’ve seen more movies that are worse than ones that were better.