Wednesday, October 17, 2018

31 Days of Dread--Day 17

Altered States; 1980; written by Paddy Chayefsky as Sidney Aaron, based on his novel; directed by Ken Russell

There was a time, quite some time ago, when Altered States was the preferred stoner/trippy movie on college campuses.

Then time passed, as it always does, and the film's mix of drug-fueled intellectualizing and grainy special effects caused it to fall out of favor and be replaced by The Wall and Blade Runner and Brazil. (All worthy watches, by the way, but none of which made this list.)

So why seek this little gem out and pay a few bucks to watch it?

A young William Hurt for starters, making his film debut and cementing his heart-throb status at the same time. An electrifying script by Paddy Chayefsky (of Network fame, yet another worthy watch), which concerns a brilliant psychologist whose experiments on himself with hallucinogenic drugs and isolation tanks go several steps too far and end up breaking the universe. And Ken Russell's direction, which gleefully plunges the viewer headlong into this jacked-up crack-up with no apologies whatsoever.

Oh, and then there are those grainy special effects, low-res cinematic nightmares that come at you fast and furious, and still carry a potent psychosexual Freudian charge.

Of course, the whole thing eventually goes off the rails. Especially at the end, when Hurt and his co-star, Blair Brown, have to reassemble their deconstructing selves using only the power of love.

But then, that's also a big part of the charm, considering that the whole film is essentially about going off the rails.

Altered States is available on streaming rental.

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