Bad Trip: The Rise of Hot Pink Horror
In recent years, as we have seen an acceptance of circa 1910 era forgotten visionaries and futurists such as HP Lovecraft and Nikola Tesla, the world of independent and low-budget horror has gone through a bit of a neo-renaissance by including a new element: psychedelics. This perhaps began as early as Mary Shelly whose drugs-induced visions have been the catalyst for the tales of terror and unknown. Even during the original synthwave movement of the 1980's, we saw several movies that touched on the science-gone-bad through the use of psychedelics and hallucinations. Even though I believe drugs can be used for healing and good, in these films they are used for darkness. It is the drug-inspired theme of not knowing what is real or not propagated by an outside influence, a loss of perception,that encourages a sense of dread in the audience. The films that have captured this concept with a fairy tale twisted Saturday morning cartoon majesty are two films by Panos Cosmatos: Beyond the Black Rainbow, and Mandy.
Panos Cosmatos presents within his films a world of otherworldly beauty and horror in the hidden guise of compassion and righteousness. He also includes classic hero archetypes such as the lumberjack and the "spooky girl", balancing it with villains who you love to hate. While the world he paints is one of many goods and evils, it is also one where it is easy to mistake one for the other and where the villains see themselves as victims or even the "hero" to justify their actions. This confusion is fed by villains' drug abuse. Drugs keep them in a constant altered state to avoid the real world and to look at themselves in the mirror and see the monster they have become. These justifications usually lead to unforgivable violence, and the heroes risk losing everything that makes themselves in order to stop much of this horror.
The overall theme found in both movies is an abuse of drugs as an enabler of darkness. If the villains were able to control their wants and needs just a little more, if they both didn't feel so entitled to their power, they might have found a balance of their inner selves. Instead, they find willing accomplices who have similar attractions to violence and grow into destructive forces of evil. Although they eliminate any who stand in their way from getting what they want, the villains suffer from not really not being self-aware of their true nature. What makes it worse, they resort to violence and manipulation to protect their wrong perception as someone who is righteous with a new morality. Anyone opposing them who has true purity, the villains find some twisted justification to subdue and control them. Sometimes this means destruction of everything that made the opponent pure and strong, be it the love of Mandy and Red or the purity of Elena. Sadly the villains abuse drugs, a tool that can be used for healing enlightenment and therapy for their own ends to keep those around them in control and to avoid the truth of their own responsibility.
Psychedelics is an amazing medicine in this world with so much horror. This world is material for a reason, just like us, not something to be molded and shaped to whichever whim our ego is whispering. It sometimes isn't left open to interpretation--if you want to see yourself as a hero in the mirror, it doesn't make it true. Abuse of these psychedelics can actually start to cause harm when used this way. The point of psychedelics is to evolve through them and to someday not need them. To continue using after being healed by its properties, or using it as a "party drug" in order to have fun shows that the drug alone isn't the key to fulfilment: you need someone to talk to. None of us start out as monsters, but avoiding the light of day ultimately will lead to permanent negative transhumanism.