I’ve become enraptured with Ken Russell lately. I first tried ‘The Devils’ – which I didn’t like the first time around but loved the second time. And after a bit of research, I’ve found that one of his most easily accessible films is a little piece called “Altered States”.
“Altered States” is about a psycho-physiologist who experiments with drugs and sensory deprivation tanks in hopes of progressing (or receding) into an alternate state of being. He believes that the secret to ascension and evolution is in fact to revert to the most primitive state of consciousness. And he attempts to achieve this by taking a liquid from an Amazonian tribe right before he steps into the deprivation tanks. And what ends up happening is far more frightening than you might expect.
It’s a very cerebral, entertaining movie that features a lot of great cosmetic make-up and strange special effects, along with some of Ken Russell’s iconic imagery (see photo attached for a reference). His transcendental meditation projects him into worlds beyond word, and the director does a fantastic job at capturing this descent/ascension into madness/purity.
But for every great experiment there must be a cost. And sometimes you have more than yourself to worry about.
This film is a complete package. Great effects, good writing, a heady concept, some images and music you will never forget, and some things that make you wonder why no one did them before 1980. At points its a victim of its time and budget, but if you can look past some of the shoddy green screen effects and just immerse yourself, there is so much to love here.
Consider me a new Ken Russell fan. I plan to dive into his more horror-related works very soon.
“Altered States” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, & YouTube.
‘Til Next Time,
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