I remember the Blue Sunshine VHS sitting on my parent’s shelf right in between The Big Chill and M.A.S.H. Like most of my parents video selections, I regarded it as some boring adult crap about feelings and relationships. I asked my parents at some point what the film was about, being slightly intrigued by the trippy box cover. “Grown-up hippies”, my mom replied. That was the last thing I wanted to watch during my teens years. Thus, I returned to my gory slashers and forgot about Blue Sunshine until many years later. What my parents neglected to tell me is that Blue Sunshine may be about hippies who are all grown-up, but it is also a disturbing little horror flick!
Trip on this: In 1978, several people begin displaying extremely strange and homicidal behavior. After exhibiting symptoms of hair loss and headaches, victims go into a homicidal rage. All these cases are traced back to a particular brand of LSD each one of the victims took 10 years prior while students at Stanford. The hippies are going mad!
Back in the late 60’s, after Hitchcock but before Carpenter, there was a genre of popular films focusing solely on LSD. LSD or as science-types call it, lysergic acid diethylamide, is a hallucinogenic drug that goes by the street name “acid”. Once studied clinically, it soon found its way into popular culture and underground manufacturing. It went on to be popularized in such films as Easy Rider and Riot on the Sunset Strip. It was then used as an inspiration for the visual style of what were known as acid films like The Trip and The Acid Eaters. But like most of the things we do for fun, years later paranoia set in as many users asked themselves, “What the hell was I putting into my body all those years ago?” It didn’t help that heavy acid users were prone to flashbacks. So just because you saw God once during a trip back in 1971 does not mean God might not make another appearance during Monday’s board meeting. And as society began questioning their love of LSD, filmmakers explored the paranoia as well.
True to its acid roots, Blue Sunshine is shot in a slightly surreal style while still clinging to the sensibilities of a horror/ thriller. Both soundtrack and cinematography capture moments of piercing discomfort without disrupting the plot. It is inspirational in that it can exist between two genres, helping turn drugsploitation into horror.
Blue Sunshine feeds into flashback paranoia as a bizarre sequel to the acid films of the 60’s. Director Jeff Lieberman explores what could happen ten years after the trip movies ended, and he does a great job of feeding off the paranoia. This extremely brutal psychological thriller remains grounded in an achievable reality. Even the final title cards at the end suggest the reality of this situation, the potential that this Blue Sunshine phenomenon may not be over.
For a long time, Blue Sunshine was an overlooked gem most horror fans vaguely remembered. But a few years back Synapse films did a topnotch release of the film, including plenty of interviews and special features. So you have no excuse not to check out this historical glance into the drug craze of the 60s and the resulting drug fears of the late 70s and early 80s. This one has a quirky plot with a slightly awkward pacing, so it may not appeal to everyone. But genre fans looking for an adventure will find a peculiar journey that will stick with them. So open up and taste the Sunshine!