Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
Five American travelers and their friend/guide from Dublin head out into the Irish countryside for a little camping, and to sample the famed local magic mushrooms. But when one of them mistakenly eats the dreaded "Deathshead" mushroom (which of course causes seizures, psychosis and wacky premonitions), their "trip" goes from bad to very, very worse. In the haunted shadow of an old boy's school and seemingly hunted by the evil spirits of the "Black Brothers" who ran the place, these kids are not going to be okay at all!
Is it good movie?
Everything I had read, heard and seen about this flick beforehand had me stoked to see it. It looked like it was going to be kick ass creepy ride, and from Ireland no less! Well, it certainly was creepy, with more than enough mist-shrouded gaelic creepiness to go around, but it was hardly kick ass. In fact, it was kind of a big disappointment. So what went wrong? My first opinion would be: quite a lot.
Now, despite getting serious props for being an original horror movie and not a remake, the story either needed a shitload more work in either the script department or in terms of editing. Whatever story was there gets lost as the characters wander around in the woods, randomly turn up dead and see a bunch of creepy shit that sort of relates to a hastily told tale of the area's dark past. I guess that is what I didn't like about this movie. The myth that is presented for the spookiness is never really capitalized on. And the story is told in such a way that the twist ending (in which the last few scenes of this flick tried way to hard to emulate Haute Tension) comes out of left field and insultingly rapes you straight in the ear. I mean, sure, it is a little predictable (SPOILER: having the dumb muppet of a character who took the forbidden mushroom be the killer all along, while she is supposedly having premonitions of her friend's deaths), but since we never actually see any of the actual kills, we have no idea what really happened to any of the characters. The heavy handed and poorly cut attempt at a series of flashbacks at the end to show us the above mentioned character doing the deed didn't help in the slightest. Because unlike Haute Tension, where the entire movie is told from the narrative point of view of the loony lead girl with delusions of heroism, the narrative in Shrooms is straightforward and not told from the point of view of the killer. Sure we see her visions and twitches, and we see people reacting to this, but then characters are inexplicably missing and later wind up dead, seemingly according to the girl's visions. So when did she kill them?? Call me boneheaded and confused, but this struck me as either a poorly done cut of the film, or some serious screwups in the story telling department.
Now don't string me up and let me swing right away. I am a die hard fan of atmospheric horror that relies more on mood and tension than on gory kills. The tension in this one was laid on thick, and I was digging the creepy woodsy setting and the crazy misty atmosphere (plus that whole foggy peat bog freaked me out big time). As well, the story was given a decent setup. Introducing stock horror characters into a new environment and with a different twist on the impetus of the horror were all nice moves. Also, the short bursts of creep we got from the mythical "Black Brothers" were nicely done. But it's just too bad that atmosphere alone did not excuse the unreal leaps of logic that this film asked me to take to get from beginning to end, and I think it would have been much better served if it had given us a more cohesive and flowing narrative, a lot more involvement with the backstory, at least a few grisly kills AND atmosphere to boot. All of these things combined are what make a great horror movie (as in the case of Hatchet). Here we just get a somewhat entertaining exercise in mood and creep, that ultimately amounts to not a very good movie. Which really kind of sucks, because with a little more work, it could have been great. Sad. With a little work, so much more could have been done, even if only to tie the loose ends of this wound together.
And as an endnote, I'm really getting sick of pretentious reviewers who keep claiming to have figured out the twist endings in movies when everybody else was surprised (such as in the case of Haute Tension and The Sixth Sense). Stop pretending, because no one buys it. One of the reasons those movies worked so well are because they caught us off guard and slammed our asses off with a deliciously nasty twist. And to say you saw the twist coming in this flick is, well, ridiculous, because story wise, it gave you a total amount of zero clues or any indication whatsoever in that direction! If it had, this would have been a much better written and put together movie, and all of the atmosphere wouldn't have gone to waste.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1. For a festival screener the flick looked great. I hope the eventual DVD release looks as good, and maybe with a new cut of the film? Maybe?
Audio: English (Dolby Digital Surround) The sound was what it needed to be. A little annoying in parts, but I think that was the sound effects.
Sure the blurred lines between reality and nightmare are great fodder for the horror mill, but when the pacing of the movie is about as slow as a one-legged dog and your depictions of "tripping out" are seriously hokey and a little lame (the talking cow was funny, but for some reason it didn't fit), and when your story/narrative/entire freaking movie is gaping in the middle with some serious holes in logic, even the most atmospheric and creepy movies can fall flat on their arse. I mean we get whole whopping handfuls of story threads that aren't even followed here! Maybe the script is to blame, but even the direction of Paddy Breathnach, nor the fine performance put in by Lindsey Haun as the lead girl Tara, can save this dog. Which is a huge f**king shame, because I so wanted this movie to be more than it turned out to be.