Altered States (1980) Movie Review

Altered States (1980)

1980 | Horror, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Drama, Fantasy
102 minutes /

User Score: 53/100

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Altered States Review


A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.

Altered States (1980) is an American science-fiction thriller horror movie that was an adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky‘s novel titled Altered States. Paddy Chayefsky is the screenwriter of Altered States, and this is the only novel and screenplay he has ever written. The book and movie are based on John C. Lilly’s sensory deprivation research. The research was conducted in isolation tanks with the use of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine, and LSD. Director Ken Russell (Tommy (1975), The Devils (1971), The Lair of the White Worm (1988)) did a remarkable job bringing Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay to the screen. Be warned: this movie is not the for squeamish, weak stomach or for people who get easily offended. Altered States is for the open minded viewers who will not question Edwards doing and theories. The movie contains violence, nudity, graphic scenes, sexual content and bad language.

Edward Jessup (William Hurt - Into the Wild (2007), Dark City (1998), The Incredible Hulk (2008), A History of Violence (2005)) is a university abnormal psychology professor. Edward is studying schizophrenia and thinks that people’s state of consciousness is just as real as our waking state. Jessup gained the help of researchers, Parrish and Rosenberg. They helped him with his experimentation of sensory deprivation in a flotation tank. Edward soon ventures out to Mexico to meet a Mexican tribe that experiences shared illusion states. He participated in a ceremony that involves his hand being cut to obtain his blood that was put into a mixture that he consumed. Edward began experiencing intense imagery and returned to the U.S. with the remainder of the mix. He takes it orally before conducting his floatation tank experiment, and he began to experience major psychological and physical transformations. I will leave you with this spoiler, he once emerged from the flotation tank as a feral and light skinned Primitive Man. Watch the movie if you are interested to see what other events take place.

One of my problems with this film is some of the transformation scenes. Overall the movie was a hit, and I will watch it again. All of the actors did a fantastic job with their performances. The sound effects and camera work were surprisingly done well for the age of the movie. Some of the images were very bothering and disturbing but give the film a chance because everyone does not have the same mind frame or thinking. The makeup, for the most part, was good.

About Altered States (1980)

Title: Altered States
Year: 1980
Runtime: 102 minutes
Type: Movie
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Drama, Fantasy
Score: 4 / 5 stars
Avg. Rating: 2.65/5 stars from 32 users.
Total Avg. Votes: 32
Starring: Drew Barrymore, John Larroquette, William Hurt, Francis X. McCarthy, Evan Richards, Bob Balaban, Jack Murdock, George Gaynes, Paul Larsson, Charles Haid, Miguel Godreau, Dori Brenner, Peter Brandon, Charles White-Eagle, Megan Jeffers, Deborah Baltzell, Hap Lawrence, Blair Brown, John Walter Davis, Susan Bredhoff, Ora Rubinstein, Cynthia Burr, Eric Forst, Adriana Shaw, Martin Fiscoe, Thaao Penghlis, Olivia Michelle
Writers: Paddy Chayefsky
Director: Ken Russell

Altered States Cover Poster Art