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Muck of the Irish

There is nothing new under the sunless sky in Shrooms, which opens with five American teenagers embarking on a trip into an Irish forest overrun with hallucinogenic fungi and inbred yokels. Once there, the movie settles into a slow, sadistic groove. Screenwriter Pearse Elliott establishes his cast of pretty young things with broad, unsophisticated strokes -- they indulge in perfunctory conversation, cavalier drug use and passionless sex until the blood begins to flow.

There will always be an audience for movies about the lurid evisceration of handsome teens, but Shrooms stages its macabre vignettes clumsily, with a distinct lack of visual clarity. It has been praised in some circles for its cinematography, and there can be no doubt that the Irish countryside, with its grotesquely disfigured forest dwellers and grimly overcast skies, lends itself to an atmosphere of unease. But Shrooms has only the look of a scary movie, and none of the requisite edge.

How much of the mayhem is real? The forest, were told, is haunted by the onetime head of a juvenile detention center whose inmates were abused and butchered, but whether he exists outside the minds of Tara (Lindsey Haun), Jake (Jack Huston) and their drugged-out friends remains a mystery. Its a clever plot device that Elliott and director Paddy Breathnach exhaust over the course of 84 seemingly interminable minutes, as Shrooms escalates from goofy hallucinations (a foul-mouthed cow) to mindless, even implausible brutality. By the time we arrive at the obligatory surprise ending, which rips pages from the High Tension and Blair Witch Project handbooks, were uncomfortably numb.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars