Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pose Reviews a Movie. #12: Altered States

My interest in this film began when GenX got that great big Altered States poster and put it above the refrigerator near the counter. I suppose that staring at an upside-down, electrode-sporting William Hurt for seven hours a week inspired enough curiosity in me to check out the movie, but the trouble was, we didn't have a rental copy until very recently.

However, now that Altered States sits proudly atop the New Arrivals shelf, I decided to give it a go--and away I went!

So far, in fact, I'm not entirely sure I've come back.

I'm going to level with you, dear reader. Altered States is a weird, weird movie.

The story centres around Dr. Eddie Jessup, a professor of abnormal psychology who is researching the effects of sensory deprivation on the human psyche. Jessup is a dedicated fellow to say the least, which is demonstrated rather convincingly through his willingness to be...his own subject.

Yes, Jessup is the primary guinea pig in Altered States, and with the help of his lab assistant, he monitors his own states of consciousness while floating inside a diving bell in a variety of pitch-black, soundproof tanks of water.

Having just been studying sensory deprivation myself in psychology class (though certainly not to the same extent), I was particularly interested to see how the film would portray its effects. Initially, Jessup's experiences in Altered States feel a bit like watching aurora borealis from Oliver Stone's house, but the psychotic wackiness gets progressively more bizarre as Jessup gets more and more ambitious with his research.

That's all I'm going to say about the plot, but if the premise appeals to you, I certainly wouldn't caution you against it. Altered States is a strange and wonderful trip--it's entertaining, and for 1980 it's even kind of edgy, plus it features the on-screen debut of both William Hurt AND Drew Barrymore (thanks IMDB)!

The only thing I'll warn you about is the twist.

Yes, yes, there's a twist. These science-ey movies always have one. You know, the ol' "Oh no, it turns out that the scientific research is having UNINTENDED SIDE EFFECTS!" bit?'s one of those.

Anyway, try to ignore it. It's kind of lame and completely impossible, and I thought it was only fair to give you the heads-up. But it'll only ruin the movie if you allow it, so don't let it worry you too much.

Overall, Altered States is a good movie to get in on, especially if you're on something good to begin with, and although the film takes a turn for the worse about three quarters of the way through, it's not enough to wreck it. So if you're in the mood for a psych-fi flick, give it a try--you might learn something! just won't be factual.

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