Film, OldVenue

Good Trip/Bad Trip

Riot on Sunset Strip (1967)

Andy’s (Mimsy Farmer) sinister trip in the rarely seen Hippie exploitation film Riot on Sunset Strip cleverly reflects the sense of building paranoia present in 60s America. Having had a LSD laced sugar cube dissolved in her drink by one of the hippies at a party, Andy, an innocent young cop’s daughter gyrates trance-like across the psychedelic dancefloor. Her movements are robotic yet simultaneously frantic, as a crowd of predatory onlookers watch her.

Filmed during 1967, her trip was actually a scare tactic used by Hollywood to fight against drug culture and the hippie movement by reflecting the vulnerability a young woman faces when under the influence of drugs. Her drug craze, culminating in a gang rape, proved extremely shocking in its initial release in conservative America. Riot on the Sunset Strip is a hidden gem of 60s counterculture, largely due to its reactionary stance against youth riots and drug use.


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

‘The weasels are closing in!’

Welcome to the Imaginarium of Dr Gilliam. Raoul Duke’s (Johnny Depp) first LSD trip consists of mind bending, stomach turning perspective shots and spinning cameras which causes people’s faces to bulge and contort, not to mention the blood on the floor and everyone turning into giant lizards. And that’s just the opening sequence.

It doesn’t stop there. When Depp comes to with a mic taped to his face, a tape player strapped to his chest, in thigh high leather boots, a plastic lizard’s tail, wading through several feet of water in the flat, the audience loses all fragments of sanity that they might have desperately clung to. When he discovers the words ‘He Lives’ painted on the wall in ketchup, pornography covered in mustard and, of course, a gun in the toilet, it’s goodbye peaceful sleep and hello mental institution.

You’ll need rehab afterwards but it’s well worth the trip!


A Scanner Darkly (2006)

A Scanner Darkly has a ‘bad trip’ vibe to it, the film’s opening scene depicting a man waking up to find himself being swarmed by a cloud of insects. Mistaking LSD for sleeping pills in a suicide attempt gone awry, Rory Cochrane’s avatar later finds himself being presided over by an interdimensional green-skinned reaper with a myriad of eyeballs, who reads off an endless list of past sins while our hallucinating hero lies there cradling a copy of libertarian literature. Whether there is an anti-drugs message attached to this scene (and the whole film by extension) is not obvious, as it both pokes fun at establishment attitudes while showing the darker side of the effect on the psyche of certain narcotics, the end credits including a list of people the source material’s author knew personally who suffered psychological trauma induced by drugs.


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