If you want to dive into the essence of darkness, enter the psychedelic realm of narcotic horror. To guide us through this trippy maze, our friend and star of the silver screen and comic author, David Dastmalchian, who is back on the podcast to lend his unique point of view on this corner of horror.
If there is a better messenger for why you shouldn’t do drugs, it’s horror movies. It rarely ever ends well for those who dabble in narcotics in horror films. Addiction. Hallucination. Exploration. Self Destruction. Depression and despair. Peer Pressure. Crime. Money. These are all gold mines for storytellers to create drama, and provides a means to explore personal stories, be they painful, trippy, or both.
At best, in drug horror, the use of the experimental drugs opens up cosmic doors and perceptions that you weren’t meant to see, but when that happens, oftentimes something monstrous emerges and what you unleashed cannot be contained. When the horror genre smashes into stoner comedies, this can get played for laughs, but almost assuredly the protagonist ends up regretting their actions.
When horror decides to dive into the darker side, it enhances the drama of the slippery slope into personal ruin and despair. Horror movies inject a more fantastical element to drug dramas that serve to create metaphorical allusions to the perils and demons of drugs. As if addiction wasn’t a dark enough subject already! Sometimes though, this proves to be a more palatable venue to discuss the serious themes of self-destruction than films like Leaving Las Vegas, Drugstore Cowboy, or Dallas Buyers Club, great movies all, but certainly hard to digest.
Something notable, and a way to track the societal norms, is to see how weed and horror films get used. In the ’80s, particularly the Friday the 13th series, marijuana use was a ticket to an early exit. Slow reactions and dull wits usually doomed the stoner kids. It’s almost always played for comic effect, unlike all the other drugs in horror films. A great turning point is in The Cabin in the Woods, which flips the trope on its head, and the stoner, Marty, is one of the lone survivors… almost.
In Episode 101, Liz will actually make the argument that one of her straight-up dramas truly is a horror film, and she makes a strong point. There are few things as scary and hard to watch as seeing people making horrible personal decisions and completely wrecking themselves, having lost controls to their own demons.
A short inventory of some notable genre films with the drug of choice:
- Reefer Madness (1936): Marijuana
- I Drink Your Blood (1970): LSD
- A Clockwork Orange (1971): “Milk Plus”
- Blue Sunshine (1977): LSD (Blue Sunshine)
- Altered States (1980): Mushrooms (Aminta Muscaria)
- Possession (1981): Alcohol, Drug Overdose – undefined
- Robocop (1987): Cocaine
- Naked Lunch (1991): Insecticides (“Bug Powder”)
- Habit (1995): Blood
- Requiem for a Dream (2000): Heroin, Diet Pills
- Shrooms (2007): Mushrooms (Psilocybin, Galerina)
- A Scanner Darkly (2006): Compound D
- The Tripper (2006): Marijuana
- Evil Bong (2006): Marijuana (hey… had to include this.)
- Enter the Void (2009): DMT
- A Horrible Way to Die (2010): Alcohol
- Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010): Unnamed black substance
- Lovely Molly (2011): Heroin
- John Dies at the End (2012): “Soy Sauce”
- Grabbers (2012): Beer
- Toad Road (2012): LSD
- Banshee Chapter (2013): DMT-19 (fictional)
- Evil Dead (2013): Heroin
- A Field in England (2013): Psilycybin
- Mandy (2018): LSD and Wasp Venom
- Bliss (2019): “Bliss”/”Diablo”
- VFW (2020): “Hype”
- The Wave (2020): “The Wave”
To assist us with this topic, we are proud to welcome back David Dastmalchian, who proved invaluable in providing his powerful personal insights as a recovered addict. In addition to appearing in Blade Runner 2049, Ant-Man, Prisoners, The Belko Experiment, and Reprisal (TV), David was the creator of his own movie about addiction and enabling in the SXSW award winner, Animals (2014).
Check out his fantastic comic creation, Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter about horror movie host Jerri Bartlett… an alcoholic (so apropos!)… and a budding monster hunter. And, you’ll get to see him in the huge Denis Villeneuve project Dune, where he will be playing the wicked mad scientist Piter De Vries! We always love talking with David, and his perspective here was super valuable and we can’t say how much we appreciate his contribution to this podcast.
As a bonus, this week, we took a YouTube recording of our Episode! The magic of ZOOM. (The audio isn’t quite as good as the audio cast, but hey! VIDEO! YAY!)