Monday, March 15, 2010

The MARCH of Death, Day 15: 'Altered States'

Ken Russell’s 1980 mind fuck of a film, Altered States is quite something to behold, even 30 years later. I remember vividly the psychological influence the visuals had on me way back when; and although the effects are dated, the trauma they inflict is in no way muted. The story itself centers around a Harvard scientist who performs mind altering experiments on himself in an isolation chamber of sorts. These experiments get out of hand quickly and the good doctor finds himself being thrown back and forth between hallucinations, reality, and transformations of the mind and body. If someone were to tell me this project was a Cronenberg film, I would have no problem believing them. The body horror is on par with anything you see in The Fly (1986) or Videodrome. You also get some Re-Animator-ish / Stuart Gordon flares thrown in for good measure. However, with that being said, this film never feels derivative. Watching this again, it feels every bit as fresh (well as fresh as this type of flesh can feel) as it did the last time I revisited it: nearly a decade ago. Altered States is a flawed film. But for every narrative inadequacy, the visual style and fervor with which Russell directs his leads more than compensates for any of it’s shortcomings.

Altered States

Director: Ken Russell
Starring: William Hurt and Blair Brown
7/10 Farmhouses ~ Chris Conduit

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