Thursday, October 04, 2012


Oh my are the demons ever colorful this season. Clad all in pink and wrapped up in bizarre incestuous serial torturer pair bonds in ways shows like DEADLY WOMEN on Investigative Discovery dream about. It makes me understand the frailty of demons and the necessity of pot for modern survival and to blazes with anyone who'd tell you different. To blazes with those not blazin'...

SHROOMS (2007) had been staring me down from my Netflix Streaming cue for years now, since before you or your grandchildren were even born, in a way, so finally I went for it one soggy afternoon, sprinkled atop a peanut butter and cracker to mask the taste. But, aside from a talking cow and some nice Irish gloom, the trip was a bummer, more muddled than that stale yellow film feeling I used to get trying to snap into action through taking--as these kids did--shrooms on a rainy camping trip when I was so full of whiskey I could barely talk, and yet painfully sober, stuck with people I did or didn't like as companions that never understood what I was trying tray abthing haren't sewa theem? Whoa, I thought I'm guess hard tripping was!

You know how it is, those soggy six AM Sundays after the bars are closed and only stupid college kids and burnouts take shrooms to get over the hump, 'cuz it worked... once. And whoa, that stupid college burnout, baby, is maybe you. And the goddess of the fungus takes one peek down your flooded basement soul, senses your weakness and decides rather than heal your wounds, to lay into you like a bitchy girlfriend-mom hybrid... for eight miserable hours. And even after her cruel relentless mockery mellows out and your closed-eye hallucinations fade back to normal blurry bands of gray, even then you can't sleep because by then its three in the afternoon and the third eye visuals, sink-holes and leprous faces keep picking at the scabs of your soul.

But hey, there's a film called SHROOMS, and no, here the shrooms don't really cause evil in and of themselves, in fact they're kind of a red herring. But they're there. They're not going away. The trouble is, maybe these campers should have been smoking pot instead, and passing around some whiskey and just calling it a day. Shrooms can be hit or miss, pummeling you or protecting you, depending on the spore's magic mood, and of course set and setting are so important. A sunny day with your favorite people at, taken a few hours after a light lunch, at, like, three PM, with good music and incense and some minor butterflies over the excitement? That's ideal. But pot never fails us... just as it never quite succeeds. That's just part of its deal. Pot's hangover is included in the high, there's no misery deferred and returned with interest at a more convenient time. It's pay as you go. Shrooms though, are paid off in installments for weeks, or else you end up drinking and taking more to taper off, and that never works.

The signifiers and signs of horror meanwhile (masks, knives, corridors, POV steadicams, phone calls, Martin Balsam in PSYCHO-style unmaskings) are now so beyond cliche they don't even need to be tied to anything substantial; having a stoned hipster gesture towards them with his thumb is enough. The hipster's thumb is the new black and CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) has taken this idea farther than anyone yet this year. Metatexually refracting the cliche of attractive high school seniors heading off to the woods for R&R, T&A, death and Lovecraftian abstraction, cometh the humble stoner--the inevitable fifth or seventh wheel in gangs of young people heading off into the wilderness since that obnoxious brother in the wheelchair in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1977).

In this sea of cliche, this stoner shall rise. As the smoke rises, man, so the stoner...

And instead of a fifth wheel, lo! The unicyclist.

Yes, in exploring this character, horror has recognized its target audience and isolated a common thread that runs counter to general programming: the insider realization that pot protects you from evil. All along we were right to be paranoid, man, things are all... weirder and more perverse and vile than we imagined in our trippiest delusions. And Mary Jane's loyal sheepdog sanity never abandoned us and won't now.

And as so often happens, this concept is literally true as recent studies show. 
 What is even more troubling is that the United States Government actually did a secret follow up-study on the Virginia findings, in the mid '90's. When it only served to confirm the results of the 1974 research, and showed that THC (one of the main active ingredient in cannabis – and the one the government loves to hate), when administered to mice, protected them against malignancy, true to form, our government attempted to bury the results. Fortunately, a draft copy of the study was leaked to the journal, AIDS Treatment News, and the media covered the story. An excellent article by Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, covers this part of our shameful history. (more)
I can't really reveal what happens in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS since 'holy shit! no way! Really? O man!' reactions are so essential, but I will quote Gregory Cwik's article on it in the current issue of Acidemic's Journal of Film and Media: 
"... after Halloween was labeled a morality play, its character's seemingly punished for acting immorally, smoking became a death sentence for horror characters. Instead, Whedon's pothead uses his bong as a weapon against the enemy. Maybe its a sign of changes to come." 
Maybe it is, if we kill enough old people first, by which I mean those who think it should be illegal (because they have never tried it). Maybe their personal embargo serves us not them. Unable to keep food down after chemo, they nonetheless refuse to smoke the pot that might help with that since it's 'the devil's weed' when all along it was their only truly safe and effective remedy. They die sooner and so can't vote anymore, and progress moves forth. Part of growing up should be the realization you can't believe a word Uncle Sam tells you, and that doctors sometimes are barred from recommended holistic and herbal remedies, as the AMA won't acknowledge their effectiveness (having never tested them, because tests are too expensive and herbs can't be patented so there's no return on investment which is a bit like saying water isn't good for quenching your thirst because we can't patent it... yet). Fail to realize this and Darwinian nature shall take its course.

Ignorance of a law doesn't make you immune, only weed does that. Is there any better reason why the law is so scared of it?
In the recent Aussie tor-por prom-com THE LOVED ONES (2009) pot brings a hot Goth girl Mia (Jessica McNamee) and a nervous hipster together for prom. I shan't discuss the 'main attraction' of the film, a protracted torture sequence, but suffice it to say that torturer Lola (Robin McLeavy) is a stunning psychotic presence, bringing so much whacked-out gusto she single-handedly elevates the whole production to near-cult status. If HEAVENLY CREATURES' Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey were Horace and Rebecca Fem in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932), McLeavy would be the locked upstairs brother, Saul. Maybe you don't get that reference, but if you don't you should see both films fast, before it's too late.

Lola's unwilling prom date-torture boy is the beautiful boy Xavier Samuel, whose best bud is the smart aleck stoner Jamie (Richard Wilson), a hipster nerd with fearful, darting eyes who snags Mia for the prom. She proceeds to smoke all his pot, embarrass him in front of distrustful teachers. and look askance upon his chosen corsage... but she also "puts out," even if it's kind of a train wreck version. For better or worse, hotness and reefer heal all wounds. Having dated a girl who not only looked a lot like Mia but was just as bi-polar and brilliant and sexy and crazy and burning every bridge I ever built just to watch the fire (then crying that it was so sad, then laughing, etc... but who cares because she was so damned hot yeah you tell yourself that but gradually your own emotions start to buckle under the strain of her DSM-IV), I can vouch for the realism of McNamee's fearless portrayal. For all the damage our time together wrought upon the life I had built, it ranks as the most romantic, swooning, delirious year of my life, even if it lasted only a few weeks, tops.

It was all good, the love far past the point of bearability, but then her polar cap shifted. And torture commenced.

Now that I'm older, crippled by the psycho bitch stalker of time, hobbling around with the TV blasted and a sense of irrelevance hanging on me like a wet afghan woven by elderly skeletal hands, the boiling water lobotomy wiping out everything but the archaic recesses of my frozen Swedish heritage. And my hands! My elderly carpels and metacarpals twisting like the yellow lines of a woebegone stretch of Mad Max Aussie highway, I finally relate to Mia's level of discontent and the tragic self-cutting of the Kristen Stewart-Hillary Swank lesbian lovechild, Xavier, and of my own past DSM-IV-quoting love in ways as prosaic as a summer's day. It all coincides perfectly with that Saturday night fall depression when all those days wasted kicking it with the TV for endless Blu-ray moviethons instead of going to the beach come back to haunt you.

The eyes, Manolo. They never lie.
That's because psilocybin can awaken spiritual visions but also conjure nightmares that can creep into this plane thanks to your expanded ability to see them, like strangers across the room who take your noticing them as an invitation to manifest further, like the strange  guy in the corner who you made the mistake of making eye contact with and now he stalks you all through the party, working up the nerve to come say hi, his shyness slowly creeping you the fuck out. Can anyone else at the party even see him?

These thoughts can be horrifying to the shroomer. The stoner, on the other hand, can't hold onto them long enough.

The film SHROOMS crashes and rises from the moldy Irish mud and shows how some days the psilocybe spirits are less kind than in others. And heavy Catholic guilt makes murder of 'sluts' an easy sacrificial treat on some elder god level. But this film isn't satisfied with just squirming down that dark poison trail, there has to be big twists which SPOILER ALERT.... ah, you guessed it already.

Top: Shrooms / Bottom: Cabin in the Woods
The best of these stoner horrors addressed in this post is obviously CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012), a pothead Truman Show, with a Lovecraftian chaser, but instead of comedy it's only a terrifying farce, featuring a WAXWORKS edge-of-sanity assortment of Escher-esque monsters and the feeling of constantly being watched (and waxed) by unseen cameras, which is what paranoia on pot is all about--both fun and unnerving, colorful and creepy...relaxing and nerve-wracking... and, uh... colorful? Did I say that one? Yo, did I mention it cures cancer? I shall now gargle whiskey while my little friend sings "Swanee River," I thank you.

It was in the summer of 1997, when I was still drinking, and so very social, and constantly amidst a sexy posse and one particularly colorful LSD trip in Sheep's Meadow (Central Park, NYC) back when you could still smoke outdoors and enterprising homeless guys regularly patrolled between the blankets selling waters ($1) and cold Heinekens bottles ($2) from rolling coolers. As we consumed the Heinekens and the acid made the trees glow like a beautiful Shakespearean jigsaw classical painting I'd dimly remembered seeing at the Met, which was right behind us... Because this was Central Park, where everyone from George Washington to Treat Williams in HAIR had hung out, getting toasted. Then, in a flash the thing came to me: Every homeless guy selling beer looked like Harry Belafonte. Within minutes I could see the way these were clones using Sheep's meadow as a testing ground, selling Heinekens laced with chemicals and monitoring the results with secret cameras placed on the heads of dragonflies, and the Meadow itself, with its glowing blue and green Kentucky grass, was an experimental grid, the blazing reflection of the grass blades in the sun hiding the cracks of the secret trap doors where the Belafontes, as we called them, retreated when their coolers were empty. They went down long stairs to get more beer, and check in with their overlords, and monitor us and our reactions.

How else did they get the beer so cold and sell it so cheap, and why else would they all look so Belafonte-ish if they weren't ghostly clones of Belafonte who probably has some great beer-broker DNA? See? You can't answer.

Just as in SHROOMS, the world kicks in around you when your senses are enhanced. The landscape seems designed to heighten whatever your brain tells your eyes and ears to see. And the bastards down there finally decided to make it plain to the rest of the world, via the film THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. This film is my proof about the Belafonte system.

End of meaningless anecdote.

In THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, there's a found diary written by a tragic one-armed mutant hillbilly cannibal girl, who at the time of writing had been watching her family slowly disappear into the dad's HOSTEL-like 'black room' and it's this grisly idea that provides the film's only real unpleasantness. In my metatexutal undercurrent journal I marked this family down as relatives of the crazy Lola from LOVED ONES and the unstable murderer in SHROOMs, but the torturer in LOVED takes the cake and her victim could surely use some pot. Hell, even I was deeply nauseous after watching it, and while the tropes of male-on-female psycho torture porn cinema are so grisly and unpleasant my feminist liberal arts programing won't allow me to even read the synopses, I generally love crazy SPIDER BABY / AUDITION type girls torturing guys- as nature intended. But giving victims lobotomies via drilling a hole through the third eye and then pouring in boiling water, that's horrible to imagine, horrible to think anyone could even think like that, anyone presumably sane and just writing a screenplay. Then again, my childhood friend Alan used to think like that. Yeesh, I forgot about that.

Killing is one thing, but burning away a human's pineal gland, their third eye? Who could be so cruel? Who could deny a person the ability to dream and see the world beyond 3-D space? I mean, aside from our own government and its absurd anti-drug hysteria, of course, for their fear of anything consciousness-raising is the great tragedy of our modern age. Lumping psychedelics in with neighborhood scourges like heroin and crack? Dumb, man. Because we take those drugs and KNOW they're scuzzy - but a scumbag gives us LSD and our minds expand, we follow them into the meat-grinder, not your dumb naysaying church, because if you're that wrong about one drug, maybe you're wrong about crack, too. This is what Graham Hancock calls The War on Consciousness, a war so insidious he was scheduled to speak about it at TEDtalks, but they waffled and pulled him last minute (1). This shit's real. Science is scared of its own shadow. This is your brain on drugs, smelling hmmmm-mmm good in their frying pan home. This is your brain slowly dying in jail for trying to save your grandmother's life by spiking her brownies. Better she be vomiting a slow agonizing post-chemo death than getting the munchies and spending too much time on the couch, right, "America"?

Final Score:

PS -11/13 The marijuana laws are slowly being reformed! Was it this blog post that brought people around?  (no). 
(1) this happened after the original date of this post, but I'm doing some rewrites as is my wont here in 4/13)


  1. As someone who went into Cabin in the Woods with two couples I'm friends with (and the only one who smokes), the movie really connected with me. Jenkins and Whitaker were such great representations of the 'secretive for your own good' government types, damning alll the fun while constantly having their own. And I've still been smoking in the park regularly since they banned it so screw Bloomberg and his green tyranny. Keep up the faith Erich

  2. Excellent piece, as always.

  3. wow. what profound / entertaining write-ups on these films. i enjoyed 'the loved ones' especially. the way you describe it really captures it.

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