Tripping Balls: “Shrooms”

October 14, 2013

Ah, ‘Shrooms, the movie that teaches us two important things: 1) the Irish are as capable of making an inane horror movie as us Americans, and 2) psychedelic mushrooms can be fatal if you’re dumb enough. How dumb do you have to be? We’re going to explore that in this review, and just to make things more interactive, I’m going to be quizzing you to see if you are dumb enough to be a character from ‘Shrooms.

Basically, ‘Shrooms is a fairly straightforward slasher-in-the-woods flick with a little psychedelica thrown in. Five exceedingly dumb American college students visit an Irish buddy of theirs for a weekend of tripping balls on the indigenous Psilocyban mushrooms. The characters are all cardboard cutouts—there’s Tara the good girl (Lindsey Haun); Lisa the rich, bitchy girl (Maya Hazan); Lisa’s boyfriend the ‘roid-addict Bluto (Robert Hoffman); Holly, the hippie chick who doesn’t shave (Alice Greczyn and ew!); her boyfriend and martial-arts doofus Troy (Max Kasch), and finally their Irish tour-guide the rakish, charming, and charismatic Jake (Jack Huston) whom Tara has a hopeless crush on.

It’s tempting to see some anti-Americanism in the fact the American tourists are vapid and idiotic and the Irish character is a dreamboat. However, since it was Irish filmmakers (director Paddy Breathnach and screenwriter Pearse Elliot) who made this moronic film it’s hard to get too torqued up over it.

Isn't this the only way this movie could end?

Isn’t this the only way this movie could end?

Okay, so our band of mental-defectives drive to a remote part of the woods for their freakout weekend, and the movie spends a few scenes showing them setting up camp and goofing around—specifically, the women divvying up a box of tampons (bad news for the boyfriends that weekend), and some amateur barbering (I don’t get it either). After this, the group begins picking mushrooms to trip on. This brings us to our first quiz:

Question #1: You are managing a freakout weekend with some exceedingly stupid people. Do you:

1) Bring medical supplies, water, maps and other basic camping gear

2) Alert friends to where you are/what you’ll be doing and maybe bring them along to help you herd these cats

3) Bring no supplies, gear, GPS, and confiscate everyone’s cel phones and hand them and the keys to the car over to the ‘roid freak for safe keeping.

So the merry band of idiots goes into the woods picking mushrooms. Unfortunately, there are good mushrooms to trip with and ones that cause psychosis, supernatural abilities, and maybe death.

Question #2: You are leading these exceedingly stupid people in the mushroom-harvesting. Do you:

1) Explain the difference between the good and bad mushrooms in front of the whole group so everyone’s on the same page

2) Explain the difference to one or two people and make sure they disseminate the info and then QC the picked mushrooms.

3) Mention the difference in passing to a couple people and then forget about it.

"I'll just eat this. What's the worst that could happen?"

“I’ll just eat this. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Question #3: You are mushroom-picking. You are told to pick mushrooms so they can be inspected by the mushroom expert and then boiled into a tea. Do you:

1)Do exactly that

2)Pop the first mushroom you see into your cake-hole

So, Tara the good girl eats a bad (freaky, possibly fatal) mushroom. Immediately she begins thrashing around and having very un-psychedelic premonitions of the group’s violent deaths.

Question #4: One of your merry band of idiots eats a dangerous/possibly fatal mush room. You should immediately rush her to a hospital. True or False?

That night a fight breaks out amid the group. Why? Is it worth going into? Anyway, ‘roid boy stomps off in a huff, drinks some freakout mushroom tea and promptly trips balls. He encounters a talking cow (with a disturbingly masculine voice) and is then brutally-murdered (not by the cow). Or maybe not. The movie suggests it was just a bad trip. But then the next morning he disappears, so maybe he was.

Question #5: An impulsive, irrational, ‘roided-up member of your group has disappeared, leaving behind his clothes and boots. Do you:

1) Organize and impromptu search party and look for him

2) Drive to a phone and call for help

3) Start tripping on the mushroom-tea, then split up and search for the guy

And that’s pretty much what happens. At the same time, Tara keeps having visions of the murder of her friends. Soon enough it becomes clear that something is pursuing them through the woods. The group splits up even further. The hippie chick ends up on her own and comes across a decrepit cabin populated by the Irish version of the inbred hillbilly mutants from Wrong Turn (nice to see that Ireland has its own West Virginia, too).

Question #6: You come to a ramshackle cabin filled with jars of pickled organs and populated by two vaguely-mutated hillbillies who look at you the same way a Catholic priest looks at a new altar boy. Do you:

1)Get the hell out of there

2) Get the hell out of there

3) Ask if they have a phone and go into their cabin.

"I'll just see if this guy will lend me his cel phone..."

“I’ll just see if this guy will lend me his cel phone…”

Meanwhile the other girls end up on the opposite side of a lake from the boys. The weather is hinky—it pours in one scene, and in the next the sky is blue and cloudless. Go figure. And it seems to be early autumn. Which brings us to:

Question #7: It’s autumn. The climate is cool enough to warrant wearing a couple layers of clothing. Do you:

1) Stick to the bank to navigate your way around the lake

2) Move further inland where you have the high ground and more navigatable terrain.

3) Wade into the inlets and trudge through waist-deep water and run the risk of eventually dying of exposure.

Okay, so rich-girl gets killed by a someone who can, apparently, breathe under water, but Tara foresaw the whole thing so it’s pretty anticlimactic. Meanwhile the boys end up playing cat-and-mouse with a bag-headed killer in an abandoned, possibly-haunted orphanage.

Question #8: You’re running from a killer in a possibly-haunted orphanage. You hear your girlfriend’s voice calling out teasingly “Come and get me!” Do you:

1) Run like hell

2) Assume she’s in a playful mood and run deeper into the possibly-haunted orphanage to find her.

"Just stay here while I check out the uber-creepy orphanage. That'll end well for both of us."

“Just stay here while I check out the uber-creepy orphanage. That’ll end well for both of us.”

The other two guys end up being killed and Tara blacks out. When she comes to she is being piled into an ambulance while the Guarda arrests the hillbillies for the murder of her friend. Then her cel phone rings. But wait! Didn’t she relinquish her cel phone? Then it all comes back to her. She killed them all! Everything you saw in the movie that contradicts this was part of her hallucination.

Final Question: You’ve gone on a drug-and-resentment-induced killing spree. Some local inbred hillbillies are arrested for it and will almost certainly take the fall (they’re inbred hillbillies, after all). Do you:

1) ‘Fess up and accept the consequences.

2) Keep quiet and get away with the whole thing

3) Murder the paramedic tending to you and basically ruin any chance you have of getting away with it (but provide the movie with a “shock” ending)

So, that’s ‘Shrooms. Stupid Americans getting killed in Ireland. I suppose I should be happy that an Irish filmmaker managed to make a movie didn’t deal with alcoholic, abusive families or The Troubles (Ireland’s two favorite movie subjects), but is this really much of an improvement?

(Answers: 3, 3, 2, False, 3, 3, 3, 2, 3)
1-3 Correct: You have untapped potential for great stupidity
4-6 Correct: very good. Just a little more training, young padewan
7-9 Correct: Congratulations! You are just stupid enough to be in this movie!
0 Correct: Well, at least one neuron’s firing in there somewhere.

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