Directed by Paddy Breathnach. Starring Lindsay Haun ("Tara"), Jack Huston ("Jake"), Max Kasch ("Troy"), and Maya Hazen ("Lisa"). Not Rated.
Source: Region 1 DVD (Magnet/Magnolia)
Running time: 01:24:16
Country: Ireland, UK, Denmark
As far as the characters, they naturally vary in terms of looks and personalities and beliefs, but yet they're all friends. We have the fairly normal but naive chick who will inevitably be the Final Girl. And then there's the hippie chick, the stoner, the hot/bitchy one, and the white boy who think he's black. Rounding out the group of friends is, of course, Jake, who's a local to the area and their tour/mushroom guide. Jake is played by Jack Huston, who's the only reason I even sought this film out. Huston is an actor I've grown to like because of his role on HBO's BOARDWALK EMPIRE. Those of you who watch the show know what I'm talking about, but, for those who don't: he's pretty amazing in it and plays one of the more interesting characters on the show. In SHROOMS, though, his performance is anything but noteworthy. He's just kinda there. Not that a film called SHROOMS warrants such a performance... but you know.
SHROOMS is a Backwoods Slasher with an urban legend theme. Looming over the entire scenario is a tale that Jake shares one night as they all surround a campfire. Not long from where they camp is an abandoned house with a doomed and tragic history, and that's basically all you need to know. Other threats come in the form of reclusive (and seemingly inbred) brothers who live in the woods, and our inevitable Final Girl Tara finds herself incapacitated early on when she eats a deadly mushroom that wasn't meant for consumption; she miraculously survives, but becomes extremely paranoid and seemingly develops psychic powers that allow her to foresee the violent deaths of her friends. Oh, and there's a talking cow.
SHROOMS, for the most part, is exactly what you'd expect it to be: a group of stereotypes in the woods arguing with each other and being stalked by... something. However, the fact that psychedelic mushrooms are thrown into the mix adds an "unreliable narrator" element to the proceedings, in that - for a little while at least - you're not really sure if what you're seeing is actually happening or if it's all a product of the characters' hallucinations. And, taking into consideration that the characters are in fact being hunted by someone, how much of the visuals are enhanced by the drug trip, and is the figure as imposing as we're led to believe? Way too much pondering over a fairly standard modern-day Backwoods Slasher, but hey, give me credit for trying. No? Eh, whatever.
One thing I'll give SHROOMS credit for is how it's shot. It's not the best looking horror movie out there by any means, and even some of the forest scenes left something to be desired in terms of effective atmosphere, but there's some decent camera work throughout, and the hallucination scenes look pretty cool. When it comes to Tara in particular, she goes in and out of her waking nightmares for most of the film, and I like how those sequences are shot; it's almost like she's levitating above the ground at times, while her snapping back into reality resembles a person who's body and spirit collide following a near-death experience. There's also some great production value with the aforementioned abandoned house; regardless of whether or not a lot of the interiors were dressed or if they used CG to add some detail, it looked good. Overall, though, SHROOMS doesn't really bring anything new or interesting to the table. The kills are very disappointing considering this is essentially a body count film (although that's sort of explained at the end), and the short running time didn't make this any less of a chore to get through.
Score: A generous 6