Altered States (1980) - Ken Russell

Altered States is a fantastic film that explores the dark side of psychological experimentation with psychedelics. Some parts feel like a dark story told by Timothy Leary. The film deals with advanced scientific theories like genetic regression as well. It is based on the work by Paddy Chayefsky, who apparently hated it and disowned his involvement. All of these factors make for a hell of a picture. 

The film stars William Hurt and Blair Brown. Both play genius scientists that fall in love. Edward Jessup (Hurt) is obsessed with finding reality in other dimensions. He hopes that copious amounts of psychedelics would propel him into the unknown, and for the most part he is right. He takes these drugs and then gets into an isolation chamber. This act really enhances the trip. Emily (Brown) is genuinely concerned when Edward starts complaining about the drugs and time spent between dimensions was actually making him regress in evolution. Edward slowly turns into a neanderthal. 

Ken Russell really delivers the trippy scenes. The effects are crude and primitive but they are bright and they kick ass. The film is thought provoking and perfectly executed. It has really intense scenes that are off putting but pleasing to the eye. He had a terrible time making the movie and dealing with Chayefsky but overall I think he did a good job. 

The imagery in the movie is terrifying at times. We even get some really good gore. I definitely recommend this movie to smart horror fans that want something different. It's old, it has a bunch of good actors (including Bob Balaban and Drew Barrymore), it's trippy, and it's nearly forgotten. 


Ken Russell




Psychological Body Horror

Did ya know...

Author Paddy Chayefsky disowned this movie. Even though the dialogue in the screenplay was almost verbatim from his novel he reportedly objected to the general tone of the film and the shouting of his precious words by the actors, this conflicting with director Ken Russell typical style of wanting heightened performances. Paddy Chayefsky had not seen the film before he took his name off the credits, the script being credited to "Sidney Aaron", a pseudonym for Chayefsky, the two names being Chayefsky's real first and middle names. Director Ken Russell and Chayefsky fought constantly during production, Russell maintaining that almost nothing was changed from Chayefsky's script and stating that he was "impossible to please."