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Trippy Blast From A Dayglo Past
on 25 April 2009
Psych-Out is hard to judge. It is something of a critical enigma - definitely a film of its time, yet remaining eminently watchable for those of us who are too young to look at it from a nostalgia bent. On one hand it reeks of cheese, lots of camp then-supposedly-trendy slang dialogue, crazy groovy dated fashions and a San Francisco rock band that drive around in a psychedelic van that recalls the Scooby Doo cartoons. We are also expected to believe that this band are going to "make it" which is fine until we get to hear them, although their "Purple Haze" cover has its moments. It is not an art film like other psychedelic pieces of the period are such as "The Trip" or "Performance", and much of the trippy-folky pop music featured is rather average. On the other hand, it is easy to overlook what the film does very well, it transports the viewer effortlessly into the 1968 San Francisco world right from the opening shot, the story is well-paced and quite absorbing, and ultimately, quite moving. The characters are well defined and there are some spectacular set-pieces like a tripped-out character thinking his mates are zombies (good make-up here!) and another thinks he is a a warrior fighting soldiers and monsters when he is in fact fighting a nasty bunch of redneck-types in a scrap yard. And the final trip scene has some breathtaking special effects which still look good. So this is a film that is both tacky and impressive. It deserves to be better known, and is reminiscent of films like "Human Traffic" taking a balanced look at drug culture and the nature of the youth movement. Looking at this, one can see why the San Fran hippy movement was so popular and joyful, as well as revealing the reasons for its ultimate extinction. For those interested in the history, music and culture of that time, or for those out to watch some good stoner film entertainment, this is highly recommended.