'The Departed'

A shake-'n'-bake slasher movie that shows just how difficult it is to do effective, modestly budgeted horror.

A shake-‘n’-bake slasher movie that shows just how difficult it is to do effective, modestly budgeted horror, “Shrooms” reps a wobbly career swerve for Irish helmer Paddy Breathnach (“I Went Down”) away from his usual wacky local dramedies. By-the-numbers item, in which five American college students literally get wasted while tripping out on magic mushrooms in rural Ireland, is OK vid fodder with few real scares and not an ounce of originality.

Forest setting — which includes an abandoned building where awful things once went on — recalls last year’s “Severance.” But “Shrooms” has none of that pic’s wit or originality, settling for a straightforward slaughterfest and a flimsy plot that just about fills out 80 minutes with copious nightmare sequences.

On the menu are a bunch of college friends who go camping in Ireland and get high on wild mushrooms at the invitation of their old buddy, Jake (Jack Huston). There’s college jock Bluto (Robert Hoffman) and his g.f., Lisa (Maya Hazen); wannabe martial artist Troy (Max Kasch) and his g.f., Holly (Alice Greczyn); and blonde, all-American Tara (Lindsey Haun), who’s on her second trip to the Emerald Isle, where she once had “a summer thing” with Jake.

Within a couple reels, script has traversed most of the setup cliches of the genre without a hint of irony: Their van hits a deer, some slobbering oafs (Sean McGinley, Don Wycherley) appear in the forest, the men are behaving like tree-swingers and the women are at each others’ throats.

After Jake has unloaded the entire backstory in a campfire chat — the forest has an abandoned juvie detention center where inmates were tortured and slaughtered — the five start on the shrooms. Tara eats the strongly psychedelic Death’s Head shroom, scarcely minutes after Jack has told her not to.

Subsequent carve-up could be at the hands of the Grim Reaper-like Black Brother (Toby Sedgwick), onetime head of the ghastly detention center, or it could all be in the heads of the trippy tourists. There’s also a third possibility.

Among the young cast, Hazen stands out as the most forcefully bitchy character. Widescreen tech package is fine and visual effects are OK, but in the service of very slim content.

Shrooms

Ireland - U.K. - Denmark

Production

A Vertigo Films (in U.K.) release of an Ingenious Film Partners presentation, in association with Irish Film Board, Nordisk Film, Northern Ireland Film & TV Commission, of a Treasure Entertainment (Ireland)/Potboiler Prods. (U.K.)/Nepenthe Film (Denmark) production. (International sales: Capitol Films, London.) Produced by Robert Walpole, Paddy McDonald. Executive producers, Gail Egan, Simon Channing-Williams. Co-producers, Nina Lyng, Eva Juel Hammerich. Directed by Paddy Breathnach. Screenplay, Pearse Elliott.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Nanu Segal; editor, Dermot Diskin; music, Dario Marianelli; production designer, Mark Geraghty; art director, David Wilson; costume designer, Rosie Hackett; sound (Dolby Digital), Simon Willis; sound designer, Jon Stevenson; special effects supervisor, Kevin Byrne; visual effects supervisor, Alexander Marthin; special makeup effects, Simon Rose; stunt coordinator, Joe Condron; assistant director, Andrew Hegarty. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival (Night Moves), Aug. 22, 2007. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Lindsey Haun, Jack Huston, Max Kasch, Maya Hazen, Alice Greczyn, Robert Hoffman, Don Wycherley, Sean McGinley, Toby Sedgwick.
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