A Harvard professor seeking the ultimate in personal enlightenment experiments in tribal medicine and sensory deprivation in order to expand his mind and become one with the original self. In doing so, he begins regressing into a simian state, first during his experiments, and then in his waking life. Are these just onsets of a drug-induced hallucinatory state, or has he begun to mentally and physically digress back into earlier stages of evolution? ALTERED STATES is an unadulterated stream of consciousness projected on screen. It is a hallucinatory nightmare that poses challenging psychological, spiritual, and ethical questions to the viewer. The complexity of the themes are far too advanced to be mere fantasy, and draw heavily from the psychotropic studies of the 60s and 70s. The problem with much of the script is that it is too intelligent for its own good, losing the audience in the psycho-babble of its characters and blending scientific theory with pseudo-science. The visual allegories that are created during Eddie's experiments are also so abstract that it is difficult to derive meaning from any of it. That being said, the concepts of altered states of consciousness and physical regression immediately force the viewer to consider the limitless possibilities of the mind. These ideas are provocative, and demand consideration regardless of whether or not the film is based in fact of fiction. William Hurt is entirely convincing and even frightening in his search for the truth. His obsession borders on the same genius and madness as Dr. Frankenstein himself, only the monster he has created is himself. Unfortunately, many of the special FX are extremely dated, consisting primarily of green screen and overlays that show the film's age. Conceptually, they still convey the same raw, primordial imagery that was originally intended, so it is easily forgivable given the strength of the plot. Whether or not you agree with the ideology of the film or buy into the science behind the theories, it is still impossible to watch without initiating an introspective and reflective response upon the viewer. The film will be particularly appealing to fans of films like JACOB'S LADDER, and deserves at least a single view!
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