Altered States / Loft Staff Selects

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Legendary director Ken Russell (Women in Love, Tommy) gleefully applied his patented flair for cinematic strangeness to this mind-blowing 1980 sci-fi horror film about a young scientist’s dangerous obsession with discovering mankind’s true role in the universe. William Hurt (in his film debut) plays Eddie Jessup, a brilliant and rebellious Harvard psycho-physiologist who submits himself to a series of radical, mind-expanding experiments. By enclosing himself in a sensory-deprivation chamber and taking hallucinogenic drugs, Jessup hopes to explore different levels of human consciousness – a journey he believes will unlock the secrets of human evolution. Unfortunately, his increasingly intense “trips” lead him directly into the heart of the most altered state imaginable, and the monstrous changes he undergoes don’t necessarily sit well with his equally brilliant wife Emily (Blair Brown), who must find a way to bring him back from the abyss. Adapted by dramatist Paddy Chayefsky from his own novel of the same name (although, uncomfortable with the finished product, he ultimately used the pseudonym Sydney Aaron in the film credits), and directed with unhinged audacity by the notoriously over-the-top Ken Russell, Altered States is a full-on sensory assault shot through with heady intellectual ambitions and wild horror flourishes, leading to one heck of a memorable trip. (Dir. by Ken Russell, 1980, USA, 102 mins., Rated R) Digital