Zombos Says: Fair
Down a forgotten street somewhere in New York City there stands a used-up, ashlar-surfaced office building waiting to be torn down. Should you enter through its bell archway, walk towards the solitary elevator that's seldom used, and turn right, you would find yourself in a narrow hallway.
In its heyday, you could find the finest business agencies rubbing elbows, hustling and bustling, here, along with the home away from home, cubbyhole, sanctuary, and hideout for the New York Globe reporters.
But that was in its heyday. Now all the hustle and bustle is done digitally, behind flickering screens, and piled up cups of coffee. Most of the tenants are now tech-related. How boring.
If you walk past those frosted-glass doors now, with their chipped and peeling lettering looking like the worn names on tombstones, and continue all the way to the end, you would come to a frosted-glass door whose lettering still shines. That's my office and my home away from home: the New York Globe’s old hangout.
My name is Artemis Greensleeves. Since my regular business has been slow of late, I decided to pick up some extra cash by working for the League of Reluctant Reviewers. I didn't realize how busy I'd be. I prefer the peace of quiet here, though, so they send me what I need when they need to.
I'm always here until three in the afternoon, waiting, with one eye on the door’s metal mail slot, and the other nestled in a good book. After three I head to my regular job, making sure to stop at Starbuck’s for a dark roast coffee on the way. I like my coffee strong.
It's always the same. I like that, too. A knock hasn't sounded on the New York Globe’s door since the war, but the sound of footsteps clicking down the hallway lets me know when another movie is coming my way for review. Quick footsteps. Click, clack, click, and another DVD pops through the mail slot; then click, clack, click echoing back down the hallway and the silence returns.
While I waited for the sound of footsteps today, I stared again at the lithograph hanging above the Globe’s trophy case. They sure did win a lot of writing awards. There’s even a Pulitzer in there, on the second shelf, just behind the large crack in the case’s glass door. I’d love to win a Pulitzer one day. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?
The lithograph is called The First Prayer of Congress. Every man in it is either bowing his head and kneeling or looking up towards heaven, very pious-like, as if seeking spiritual guidance—or maybe looking for forgiveness? If you look close enough you can see places where it's torn and foxing, and fading.
I still like it, though.
When the click clack of footsteps came this time they sounded unusually hurried. Before the DVD slid free of the mail slot and hit the floor they were already retreating, leaving me alone with Shrooms. I read the cover, looking for a clue as to what I could expect. The tagline, "Get Ready to Get Wasted," didn't fill me with confidence.
The soundbyte "Blair Witch on Acid" from a lucyvine.zoo didn't do it for me either.
Who the hell is lucyvine.zoo?
I got to work writing my review.
Once again a group of American teenagers head abroad to get into mischief, and as usual in these low budget horrors, the actors look a tad older than 'teensy' would allow, but I won't quibble. They do a wonderful job with a listless, by the body count, story for the most part.
Heading over to Ireland they meet up with shroom master Jake, who drives around in a Mystery Machine reject (minus Scooby Doo). I guess being a mushroom expert doesn't pay all that much these days. Funny, but when I travel, which is seldom, I don’t usually book mushroom tours. I don’t think many people do, either. Only too old-looking college kids in horror movies book tours like that.
Soon they're off to find magical mushrooms in the forest. Only this forest is populated by two drooling, unwashed, dim-bulb—stop me if you've seen this before—axe-carrying ne'er-do-wells who don't communicate well; which is fine since after seeing them you wouldn't want to hang around and chat anyway.
Unperturbed, the magical mushroom seekers venture deeper into the woods to steep some toadstool tea. At this point, you realize all of them are expendable because no one is likable and the catholic girls are having non-catholic thoughts while the boys aren't catholic to begin with.
So you can see what's brewing goes well beyond a simple cup of mind-bending tea.
Stirring the pot and plot, Jake tells them the creepy tale of the evil black brothers of Glenn Garig, who tortured and murdered their young charges—orphaned boys with no place to run except these woods. After one abused boy sneaks some bad-ass shrooms into the communal soup, seventy-eight kids, assorted brothers—and the janitor, I’d warrant—wind up massacred by one crazed surviving brother carrying a sharp blade.
And that brother might still be stomping around the woods since no one really knows what happened to him!
At this point, the girls can't take it anymore and tell Jake to zip it. Lucky for them, Glenn Garig is not close: sure, it's about a ten minute walk from where they're camped, but it's not that close, so they should be able to sleep in their flimsy tents without any trouble whatsoever.
While I waited for the sound of footsteps today, I stared again at the lithograph hanging above the Globe’s trophy case. They sure did win a lot of writing awards. There’s even a Pulitzer in there, on the second shelf, just behind the large crack in the case’s glass door. I’d love to win a Pulitzer one day. Hey...wait a minute...
The plop of the DVD hitting the floor nudged my attention. I picked it up. It was Shrooms.
I was just watching it, wasn’t I?
Maybe I was having visions like Tara (Lindsey Haun), who went off to enjoy nature while Jake was giving his lecture on which mushrooms to stay away from. In a fit of pique, Tara eats the bad-assiest one of the "don't" group.
After her near death experience, she becomes a regular Esmeralda the Fortuneteller, and has visions of her friends being stalked and butchered, one by one, by a hooded creepazoid with long nails, a sharp blade, and rotted teeth; looking like a cross between your typical J-horror vengeance ghost and a Hills Have Eyes mutant, this black brother is a tree-hugging nightmare.
But is he real, or are they all just tripping from the mushrooms?
Her friends, meanwhile, have made themselves pretty damn easy pickings with their sudden arguing. Just once I'd like to see a horror movie with friends that act like they are friends and not acquaintances. Of course the group splits up to make the slaughter, and the writer's job depicting same, easier. While a group of people screaming at each other is somewhat easy to victimize, it's just easier to victimize screaming singles instead.
"Don't forget to tell them about me," said the cow.
"Sure, I won't—." I blinked.
For a minute there I could have sworn a cow slid through my mail slot, blew up to full size, and talked to me, like in the movie. I mean, there's no mail slot in the movie, just a cow that talks to Bluto (Robert Hoffman), who goes running off —that would be Bluto who ran off, not the cow—after drinking the entire pot of mind-tripping tea. Of course—sorry, but "of course" is a natural with most horror movies these days—that action makes him the first idiot to get whacked.
On a personal note, I really have to stop drinking those venti-sized coffees from Starbucks. I pulled myself together. This review was starting to get to me.
Hack and slash, and run run run...to Glen Garig.
The one place in the forest they really shouldn't be going is where they wind up. Before that, everyone is screaming at the top of his or her lungs for everyone else.
So my question is this: when being stalked in the forest, can anyone hear you scream? Based on this movie, the answer is NO.
As panic sets in, Tara manages to do a Looney Tunes bonk! into a tree, face first. While I think Elmer Fudd had better timing, she's not bad at it.
Holly, meanwhile, runs to the scary-looking dilapidated shack nestling ominously in the woods. Now who, pray tell, would be living here? You guessed it: the Jonas Brothers!
No wait, it's not them.
It’s Ernie and Bernie, the two drooling, dim-bulb conservationists seen earlier in the movie. She—sorry, but I can't avoid it this time—of course walks right into the shack as Burt and Ernie—I mean Ernie and Bernie—look on and drool a lot. Maybe because there are no carcasses or raw meat hanging around she doesn't realize you don't enter decrepit shacks in the woods looking for a phone while two unwashed guys talk a lot about goats with fondness in their voices.
And you wonder why the academy awards doesn’t take horror movies seriously anymore?
While there's a bit of oh-my-god-how-stupid-can-she-be? in watching Holly walk into that shack, the tension doesn't quite build enough to raise the scare factor beyond tepid. Director Paddy Breathnach also lingers on peering-through-holes-too-closely moments, but builds little suspense. His direction is by the numbers with little V8 creative juicing to liven up the one down, two down, three down slasher momentum. There is one bright moment regarding how the black brother, real or not, can sneak up on you unawares, but that's the brightest it gets.
Well, it's almost three in the afternoon. One more thing before I go.
You will find out at the end whether the black brother is real or not, if that's any consolation. Shrooms is not all that terrible. It's just not the acid trip it could have been.
None of the creative people involved in this movie apparently ingested any shrooms during its production, making it one big, unmagical, mystery tour.
The mystery is how it ever got green-lighted in the first place.
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.