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Film review: Blue Sunshine @ Cine-Excess, Dukes at Komedia 15/11/14

Blue Sunshine 1976Last Saturday, Brighton’s own Dukes at Komedia gifted us with another midnight movie screening from the psychotronic mind of director Jeff Lieberman with his suspenseful body horror, Blue Sunshine. Jerry Zipkin played by an inconspicuous Sean Penn lookalike is the prime suspect for a triple murder after his friend loses not only his hair but also his sanity and burns three women alive during a party. Following this hysteria, Zipkin discovers the role that the titular strain of LSD had to play ten years after the trip by making ex university students turn bald and homicidal.

At the time of release in 1978, Blue Sunshine was seen as an anti-drug film but as Lieberman revealed himself, during the live introduction by the director, it was in fact a reactionary comment towards the perpetual hysteria surrounding drugs and in particular LSD created by the media, albeit executed with unnerving b-movie psychedelia. When Lieberman was quizzed on what his inspiration for the film was, of course the only response could be “acid”.

Blue Sunshine opens up with an innocent enough looking party turned massacre when one of the guest’s flees after his hair is ripped off. Zipkin is targeted as a culpable suspect after the suspiciously glabrous gentlemen incinerates three of the female partygoers. As he is on the run from the law, he uncovers an acid fried conspiracy behind a college drug-dealer turned congressman’s bad LSD supply that has long term psychoactive effects on its users. This mind-bending thriller is a trans-atlantic giallo counterpart and culminates in an intense hallucinatory standoff featuring the congressman’s psychotic henchmen and Zipkin’s girlfriend in a discotheque.

This screening of Blue Sunshine was part of the weekend’s Cine-Excess film conference with the screenings from the festival curator, Xavier Mendik, expert on cult films and also a lecturer on the Digital Film course at the University of Brighton. Some of the other screenings that took place over the weekend included seminal slasher Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), two more Jeff Lieberman films, also introduced by the man himself, including sludgy insect horror Squirm (1976) and his teenagers-isolated-in-the-woods, Deliverance rehash, Just Before Dawn (1981), which was part of Sunday’s Scum of the Earth backwoods horror marathon at the Sallis Benney Theatre. Other demented cult delicacies on show featured the crazed hinterland exploitation Poor Pretty Eddie (1975), which had never before been screened in the UK, The Wild Man of the Navidad (2008), a student film reminiscent of low budget 70’s monster movies and lastly, Midnight (1981) a grimy occult  horror directed by Night of the Living Dead writer, George Russo.

By Ryan Bellett.

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