Shrooms (2007)

Posted: April 18, 2014 in Movie Review
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Shrooms (2007)

Director: Paddy Breathnach

Starring: Lindsey Haun, Jack Huston, Max Kasch, Maya Hazen, Alice Greczyn, Robert Hoffman

Honestly, I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. I’ve seen this kind of horror movie so many times that I’ve lost count, yet still I come back for more. The good ones are like a fine, angus beef steak dinner; you wish there was more to it, and you’re sad when it’s over. The bad ones are like tripping out, only to have it go horribly wrong; you knew damn well what you were getting yourself into when you popped it in, and you have no one else to blame but yourself for making that decision. “Shrooms” wants so badly to be a steak dinner, thinking itself clever, only to present its audience with a whole lot of “a trained monkey could write this crap!”

Five college friends go out into the middle of nowhere to trip out on mushrooms… because, you know, they couldn’t find anything to munch anywhere near civilization. To really get away from it all, they decide to give up their cell phones and hide them in the glove compartment of their SUV… because it’d be really funny to have an emergency and not be able to call anyone. The invention of the cell phone has admittedly dealt a serious blow to the horror genre. These movies tend to rely on their characters being unable to call anyone for help. Once the friends get where they are going, they tell scary campfire stories, and make sure to point out the differences between the good kind of mushroom and the bad kind… and, of course, the main character eats one of the bad mushrooms. She wins the Idiot of the Week Award! But Tara (Lindsey Haun) doesn’t die. She just convulses and has visions of the near future involving the deaths of her friends. Wait, WHAT?!

If you think you’ve got a handle on where this is going, the odds are you’re probably right. The movie throws in a subplot involving survivors of some earlier tragedy years ago, but it’s mostly just for show. The main focus of the story stays on the five friends and their paranoia after consuming the fungi (the other four, besides Tara, eat the good kind). Meanwhile, Tara innocently wails and screams and flails about… and does all of these things a lot. She keeps seeing a Grim Reaper-type of character whenever there’s about to be death and, for reasons which you’ll figure out LONG before Tara does, so do her friends.

The way this whole movie plays out, I have to wonder if it wasn’t intended as some weird anti-drug PSA type of thing. I would like to believe that’s not the case, but then so many 1980’s horror movies (not to mention other genres) pulled exactly that same card. That isn’t the biggest problem for “Shrooms.” Beyond the silly, abbreviated title, you have to sneer at movies that require their characters to act stupid in order for the plot to move along. I say this despite being a fan of several 1980’s slasher franchises. They get a pass for nostalgia’s sake, among other things.  On the subject of gore, “Shrooms” to its credit behaves more like slasher films of the 1970’s like “Black Christmas” and “Halloween,” in that on-screen blood is minimalized… at least until the climax. That’s when you discover what’s “really” going on, but as I’ve suggested, anyone paying attention will have picked up on it long before they admit it. The total lack of suspense kills this one before it’s had the chance to get going. I, myself, was yelling the identity of the killer at the screen during the first act.

I really don’t know why American horror has sunk so low. Rehashing old ideas seems to be all that we are good for. Save the reminiscence for the films which actually belong to their time periods. Is it so hard to think beyond conventional storytelling tactics? The French and the Japanese both have a firm grasp on “thinking outside the box.” Technically, “Shrooms” isn’t a horrible movie on its own. It’s just not all that good, it’s too predictable and it’s not the greatest way to spend just shy of 90 minutes of your time. Maybe if one were to try watching it while stoned, that would make a difference… Nah, not worth it.

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