Edinburgh International Film Festival

Shrooms (2006)

Starring: Lindsey Haun, Jack Huston, Max Kasch, Maya Hazen, Alice Greczyn, Robert Hoffman, Don Wycherley, Sean McGinley

Directed by: Paddy Breathnach

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Lindsey Haun in Shrooms

If Teeth was a moral lesson in abstinence, then Shrooms is screaming loudly and clearly: just say no.

Six kids head out into the woods in some remote backwater of rural Ireland in order to take magic mushrooms and get off their heads. Given that five of them have flown all the way from America for the occasion (don't they have shrooms in the States?) it's rather unfortunate that they manage to pick woods that are not only peopled by drooling, inbred, axe-wielding halfwits (like Irish zom-com Dead Meat, Shrooms does as much for the tourist trade to Ireland as Hostel does for Slovakia) but also happens to house the crumbling shell of an abandoned borstal for young offenders, which was run by a group of evil, black clad monks – until one of them ate a bowlful of deathshead mushrooms and killed everyone else. Talk about a bad trip…

A gratuitous picture of Shrooms star Jack Huston

Of course, if I found out I was going to be camping in haunted woodsn inhabited by looneys, I'd pitch my tent under the first creepy tree I found. And once settled in, I would ensure that, like our naïve heroine Tara (Kirsten Dunst lookalike Lindsey Haun) the first thing I did was eat a deathshead mushroom (symptoms: extreme rage and violence, and the ability to communicate with the dead and see premonitions of the future), then, like brainfried jock Bluto (Robert Hoffman), wander off into the forest all by myself in the middle of the night (just how many mutilated penises do I need to see this week?), or, like hippy chick Holly (Alice Greczyn) approach the aforementioned yokel locals for help. Have these people never seen a horror movie before?

Still, head-slapping stupidity aside, Shrooms is quite a satisfying little horror film. The central theme of the psychotropic mushrooms allows for a nice blurring between the borders of reality and horror fantasy, with some really quite effective hallucinogenic camera work tipping us nicely into the teenagers' trip. Sure, we've seen a lot of it before (mostly in The Blair Witch Project), and you can see the 'twist' coming from a mile off, in the dark, through a whole bunch of trees – and you'll be unsurprised to hear that its wielding an axe.

Nevertheless, if you're a fan of pick-'em-off horror by numbers and you enjoy jumping out of your seat at regular intervals (or, indeed, if you're partial to talking cows or the rather gorgeous Jack Huston, who plays shroom guru Jake) you'll find plenty to enjoy in this savvy brew of unashamedly retro horror clichés.

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