I don’t think he’s real…. Oops. Wait a minute.

Just what we need. More bad press about psychotropic mushrooms.

You see, not only do they make you trip out, so that you cannot defend yourself from slobbering, inbred, axe-wielding halfwits, but they also engender extreme rage and violence, communications with the dead, and awful visions of the future. At least that is the premise of the horror-slasher movie Shrooms, directed by Paddy Breathnach.

Here’s the story. Five American college students go camping in Ireland with their old college friend Jake, who tells them that Ireland has the best Psilocybe mushrooms in the world, which they proceed to sample, except for one, who eats the dreaded death’s head mushroom instead.

This is what happens when you break social taboos against ingesting psychotropic fungi.

But little do they know that they are near the crumbling remains of an abandoned reform school for young offenders, which had once been run by a group of evil sadistic black-clad monks, until the head monk ate a bowl of death’s head mushrooms, went crazy, and killed everyone else, except the vengeful inmate who had poisoned him. And little do they know that the woods are populated with Deliverance-like roadkill-eating genetic anomalies. And, most of all, little do they know that even one death’s head mushroom can turn a virgin cheerleader into a psychotic sadistic murderer.

And so, one by one, the campers are gruesomely slaughtered. Is it real, or is it a mushroom-induced hallucination? Who are those black-clad figures in the misty woods — ghostly monks? real genetic anomalies? And why is there a talking cow?

It is hard to know what to make of all this. In many ways this is a typical teenage slasher movie, with the added plot twist that the potential victims do not know whether their experience is real or hallucinated. There is also an additional subtext. To the list of things that can get you killed if you are a teenager — going into the basement, answering the telephone while you are babysitting, having sex — we can now add ingesting psychoactive mushrooms. Getting high on mushrooms apparently violates two social taboos — first, against getting high on anything; and, second, against ingesting any mushrooms at all in a mycophobic culture that considers eating fungi to be … well, French.

Amanita phalloides. Do not eat. This will not let you see the future.

The death’s head in the movie is presumably modeled on Amanita phalloides, called both the death cap and the death’s head mushroom. There is no doubt that this is one of the most poisonous of all known mushrooms; in fact it is probably the species involved in the majority of human deaths from mushroom poisoning. Poisoning by Amanita phalloides is characterized by a delay of between 6 and 24 hours from the time of ingestion to the onset of symptoms. During this time, the cells of the kidneys and liver are being attacked. There is no antidote. Mortality is between 10 and 15 percent. Despite what the movie says — “According to the ancient Irish druids, these are like a portal to another dimension” — there is no reason to believe that this mushroom is hallucinogenic in any way.

The movie was not hailed by critics. The Daily Mirror called it “unoriginal, dull and as scary as the adventures of Noddy.” The Guardian says it is “as boring as listening to anyone’s drug story.” The San Francisco Film Society is a little kinder: “It’s not brilliant, but sufficiently funny and creepy and freaky.” Reviews are at Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. Here is the preview:

And, as a special treat, here is Andy Letcher, author of the book Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom, talking about the movie:

  • Share/Bookmark
Subscribe

6 Responses to “Shrooms”

  1. Anonymous says:

    hey this is LLB…
    you know when i was a teenager i remember having experinces like that… battleing supernatural evil and the undead and stuff… if you make it out alive you realize its just a phase, you grow out of being a target for super nautural evil… because in reality it doesnt really exist… just your dellusions are real…

    this is why i think we need more leaders and guides and teachers to step up and help young people to get over these fears that are created by this cutlure… this movie is very damaging to the young people who watch it and then ingest mushrooms naively looking to get freaked out… very very potentially truamatic experinces can happen to the naive and unwise when ingesting entheogens, and this movie is going to spur that… as well as leave a skewed anxiety in peoples heads about the supernatural arena of the entheogenic experince. sad…

    your right as well as how its dangerous that they confused the deaths heads with and entheogen… this will undoubtedly motivate some people to seek these out naively and eat them to have contact with the dead… we can be happy however that these people will not be spreading their DNA any more… and each should receive their very own darwin award… amen…
    so in a sense those that eat this mushroom will be speaking with the dead… sigh…
    im going to have to see this movie… but i know its just going to piss me off to no end…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Aside from the obvious ridiculousness of the entire premise, the film is filled with inaccuracies regarding the use of Psilocybe mushrooms.

    I find it amusing that the characters are able to consume the mushrooms and then retire for the night some time later and fall fast asleep. None of the problematic sweating, visual & auditory effects, and inability to close one's eyelids for longer than a few seconds.

    Regardless of the fact that psychedelic substances induce high degrees of tolerance, these teenagers can apparently consume the mushrooms consistently throughout several days and re-create the experience at will.

    With no obvious substrate (rye, compost, etc) these magical mushrooms grow already dried out and don't cluster as one would expect but rather grow in singles, scattered over a vast area of woodland.

    And of course, the "trips" and the hallucinations they induce are experienced by the entire group suggesting that these mushrooms are creating collective "trips" where all the characters simultaneously experience the same talking cow, or ax-wielding half-ling.

    The whole thing is just retarded and a total waste of time and brainpower.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ive eaten a death head and survived. I saw things…

  4. Steve Beyer says:

    >>>I saw things…<<<

    I'm not at all surprised. :-) You are lucky to be around. But my guess is that for a while you were pretty miserable.

  5. Teleterkji says:

    Nice to know that there is in fact no deaths head
    mushroom.
    I have eaten many strange mushrooms witch look alike the psilocybe semilanceata
    but they have never given me any hallucinatory
    experience.
    I look forward to a more shamanic movie
    with the ingestion of psychotropic mushrooms
    as the main ingredient.
    Im bored with these anxiety ridden movies
    trying to scare us away from mother earth.
    I remember watching Jaws as a kid and
    i still hear that haunting soundtrack from the movie,when i go for a swim in summer.
    I wonder if the government has a finger up the butt of the director of this film.

  6. drew says:

    you know what? I’ll be honest, I liked this movie, I thought it was a good place to go with hallucinogenic drugs… yeah, it paints them in a bad picture, but its an exploration of them none the less, thats why I dug it… And it was definitely better than Tommy Chong’s Evil bong…

    I came up finding interest in science fiction that addressed real and fictional drugs and their affects on people, ie. the island, brave new world, a couple of PKD’s works, etc. Its an effective plot device…


Browse the Full Collection of Articles