Friday, December 21, 2012

Blue Sunshine (1978)

          There’s a great story to be told about the lingering aftereffects of ’60s experiments with LSD, but Blue Sunshine is not that story. Instead, it’s a so-so horror picture in which an interesting concept gets bludgeoned by uninspired execution. The movie begins at a party, where several young adults listen to their friend Frannie (Richard Crystal) sing tunes and tell jokes. Then someone playfully yanks Frannie’s hair, revealing that he’s wearing a wig and that his scalp is bald except for a few patches of stringy hair. Frannie flees the party, only to return later in a crazed state and kill two women who are lingering at the location after the party has nearly ended. Discovered by Jerry (Zalman King), another late-to-leave party guest, Frannie runs from the party house to a nearby highway and gets run over by a truck. Through unfortunate circumstance, Jerry ends up under suspicion not only for the maniac’s death but also for the murders of the two women.
          Thus, in the mode of a conspiracy thriller, Jerry becomes a fugitive determined to explain why his friend went crazy—a quest that gains urgency when he realizes that others have experienced similar homicidal breakdowns. Eventually, with the covert help of his pal David (Robert Walden), a physician with knowledge of illegal drugs, Jerry realizes the psychotic episodes involve users of a form of LSD called “Blue Sunshine,” which was sold years ago by Edward (Mark Goddard), who is now a respectable citizen running for Congress. Predictably, Jerry has a hard time proving his wild theory that a fast-rising politician is responsible for the spread of a mind-altering substance that destroys its users.
          Although writer-director Jeff Lieberman’s filmmaking is relatively slick—his camerawork is calm and sensible, his storytelling lucid—he can’t really overcome confused intentions. On one level, the picture is a dark drama about the dangers of amateurs creating their own brands of LSD. But on every other level, Blue Sunshine is a tacky horror flick, complete with scenes of housewives freaking out and attacking their children with butcher knives. Plus, the acting runs the gamut from terrible to workmanlike—nobody in the cast of Blue Sunshine is particularly credible except for Walden, a fine character player known for All the President’s Men (1976) and the TV series Lou Grant (1977-1982). King, who later produced and/or directed myriad  ’80s and ’90s softcore movies, is an especially weak link, offering bug-eyed intensity instead of real acting. And while the murder scenes are undeniably creepy, they’re also a bit goofy, with each murderer suddenly revealing a bald scalp before shifting into pyschosis.

Blue Sunshine: FUNKY

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