Saturday, September 13, 2014

Altered States (1980) review


   This film is basically a body horror with the brains of a college professor. The complexity of this horror film and its many details make it a trip worth taking. The performances are amazing, the effects are mind-blowing for the time, and the overall horror feeling it gives is awesome. This isn't just a horror for the masses, however. The amount of intelligence put into this is almost incomprehensible unless you pay attention to all the details.

PLOT: Dr. Eddie Jessup (William Hurt), a Harvard research scientist, believes there are other states of consciousness as real as reality itself. Through sensory deprivation brought on by an isolation tank, Dr. Jessup explores these altered states while also taking untested hallucinogenic drugs that he discovered overseas, to the disdain of his wife, Emily (Blair Brown) and fellow colleague, Dr. Mason (Charles Haid). However, he does gain the support of his other colleague, Dr. Rosenberg (Bob Balaban). Jessup sees an early species of man among other curious images, but it starts to harm him. After a few of these experiments, Jessup's body starts to transform with him to form that of the early species of man he saw. What ensues after too many experiments is madness unchained. The plot is very well thought-out with brilliant execution. The way the plot is set up leaves it open for many artistic shots, which the director definitely takes advantage of. You will feel truly as if you're on the trips with Jessup as the film progresses.

ACTING: The performances in this film amazed me. I was very impressed with the acting skills of these performers. William Hurt played a very memorable part as the over-curious Dr. Jessup. His speeches describing what he's seen make you think he's an expert at what he does. For his film debut, I think he did really well. My favorite performances, however, were Charles Haid and Bob Balaban as Mason and Rosenberg. There back-and-forth insults and conversations with each other were just excellently done with great emotion and shocking realism. Blair Brown also did very well as Emily Jessup, though she didn't have as big of a part.

SCORE: The score in this film was actually very nice. There were definitely some memorable, freaky themes that accompanied some of the more suspenseful and disturbing parts. The same could be said for the parts with more action and jump.

EFFECTS: The visual effects in this film were just marvelous, especially for their time. I don't think I can express enough words to even state how much these surprised and blew me away. From the last time Jessup enters the isolation tank to his forced exit from it, the effects are overloaded, stacked, enhanced, and excellent, showing his body change and the whole area around him light up to mimic his hallucinations. Even the surprise climax at the end of the film was just mind-blowing. The make-up effects were very authentic to for the Indians and the early human. The effects in this film hands-down made it memorable.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The film, along with its effects and performances, was just brilliant. Even with the possibilities of any of this even happening being preposterous, the film still succeeds to amaze me and entertain the cinephile in me. The film was amazingly intelligent with how it went about accomplishing this, from script to execution. However, that's what separates the audiences of this film. This film feels just a bit too smart for the general public; it makes you feel like you have to be intelligent to be able to follow it. Sadly, not everyone likes or can comprehend films like this to their full extent, so it's definitely not for everybody, though the effects could probably shock or surprise them as well as they did I. There also seemed to be a great amount of symbolism in the film that I thought was a nice treat for those who could notice it.

   The film is excellent, intelligent, well executed, and amazingly performed with mind-boggling effects and memorable score. I'll probably be talking about this film for days to come as a horror buff and a cinephile. However, this isn't everyone's cup of tea. One might need to educate themselves just a little bit before watching this horror/sci-fi marvel.

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