directed by Paddy Breathnach
(Magnolia, 2007)

I have seen nothing but derogatory comments about this film, but I found Shrooms to be a pretty fun little horror movie. Sure, you don't have to have eaten a Deaths Head mushroom to see prophetic visions of how the film will end, and the story doesn't exactly break new ground in terms of character development, but Shrooms does have a suspenseful moment or two and I happen to believe that the look and feel of the film (which some have decried as hopelessly bland) creates the appropriate atmosphere for the setting and the events that take place there. It's Ireland, people, not the bright and sunny beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Forget about the whole potato business. Apparently, Ireland is all about psychedelic mushrooms. In the film, five dumb Americans have just spent tons of money to fly across the Atlantic in order to camp out deep in the woods and indulge in the hallucinogenic visions wrought by the local "magic mushrooms." Well, one of them, Tara (Lindsey Haun, who happens to bear a strong resemblance to Kirsten Dunst) came in hopes of hooking up with host Jake (Jack Huston); her four annoying friends (two stuck-up girls and their annoying boyfriends, one of whom looks like the skinny guy from Jay and Silent Bob while the other one is dumb frat boy material) tagged along for the psychedelic adventure.

Already bummed over the fact that Jake isn't paying her much attention, Tara decides to eat one of the mushrooms she finds -- unfortunately, it's a Deaths Head mushroom. Supposedly, anyone who eats one of these particular shrooms -- assuming he/she actually survives -- gains several dark attributes, such as the ability to predict the future. Being the main character in the film, Tara naturally survives, waking up in time to hear Jake tell the others about the dark monk who terrorized and murdered a number of the kids under his charge, including a shrouded boy who poisoned him, and is said to still roam those very woods looking to kill those who would enter his domain. As you can probably guess, Tara soon begins having terrifying premonitions of her friends' violent deaths -- just before those deaths actually happen. Soon all of the characters are scrambling around the woods in search of help and answers as they are picked off one by one. Tara begins seeing the dark monk seemingly stalking her, the boy in the shroud pops up a time or two and a family of inbred hillbillies stops by to make things even more interesting.

There are some obvious parallels between Shrooms and another recent film that shall remain nameless; I only mention this because I raked that other movie over the coals for the absurdity of its ending and, in retrospect, overall approach to the entire story. A case can certainly be made that Shrooms borrows heavily from this other film -- yet here, the story actually works reasonably well (aside from its predictability and lack of originality). With the characters all befuddling their minds with psychedelic mushroom delights, one can never be sure if what you are seeing is real or a hallucination. With so much wriggle room to work with, Shrooms actually turns out to be a pretty effective little horror movie, in my opinion. Did I mention there's a talking cow?

review by
Daniel Jolley

7 August 2010

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