I am doing the 31 Days of Horror Challenge. Every day in October, I will watch a different horror film I have never seen before and write about it here on the blog.
Shrooms is the type of movie that promises something a little different. The premise certainly suggests a twist on the traditional “young college kids stalked in the woods” genre. In actuality, it’s not different at all. It’s this failure to do anything of interest with a slightly unique premise that takes it from being an average indie-stalk and slash flick to being a subpar example of laziness on the part of writer Pearse Elliott and director Paddy Breathnach.
Five American college friends fly to Ireland to take part in a camping/hallucinogenic trip using the titular fungi. The individuals in the group all occupy standard genre archetypes. Tara (Lindsey Haun) is the good girl who is less interested in tripping and more concerned about meeting up with Jake (Jack Huston), the Irish student she had a brief romance with the previous summer. Jake is the group’s local guide and all-around decent guy who is too nice to break Tara’s heart even though he’s not interested in pursuing a relationship. Lisa (Maya Hazen) is Tara’s ill-defined best friend. Bluto (Robert Hoffman) is Lisa’s steroid-injecting jock boyfriend. He fills both the hot-headed asshole and ugly American roles. Troy (Max Kasch) is the requisite comic-relief stoner. And the group is rounded out with Troy’s hippy girlfriend Holly (Alice Greczyn).
Upon arriving in Ireland, Jake whisks the group off to the woods around a possibly haunted, abandoned orphanage where they pick mushrooms, learn the scary story behind the orphanage, encounter freaky backwoods locals, and Tara accidentally ingests what is known as the “death’s head mushroom,” a powerfully hallucinogenic mushroom that should kill her. When she miraculously survives, she finds she has the ability to see the future. The problem is that the future includes the violent deaths of the group and the inability to tell the difference between reality and hallucinations.
If Shrooms had merely stuck to the regular genre conventions and not tried to throw in the attempted trickery of fooling the audience with what is real and what is a trip, it would be a decent, if routine, horror film. But the introduction of Tara as an unreliable viewpoint through which to tell the story leads to heightened expectations. That Elliott and Breathnach then largely ignore the sole intriguing twist to their story left me frustrated and slightly angry.
As the film settles into well-worn territory with the characters being picked off one-by-one by a possibly supernatural killer, the mediocre nature of the story and the one-dimensional aspects to the characters become impossible to ignore. Aside from Troy, who is grounded in something that resembles actual human behavior, the characters all turn into typical, bad horror movie idiots. Even worse, before the horrific events begin, the members of the group are at each other’s throats. These people are supposed to be friends, but they behave as though they hate each other from the first reel. Why should I care what happens to these characters if they’re so annoying that they can’t even stand each other?
Aside from some atmospheric footage of the Irish countryside, there’s nothing to differentiate Shrooms from any number of Texas Chainsaw Massacre/Friday the 13th/Blair Witch Project ripoffs. Do yourself a favor and don’t bother.
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