Magic mushrooms are on parade in director Brent Lydic’s hallucinogenic comedy Spirit Quest. Tip (Tip Scarry) has got the mopes from his old lady dumping him to climb Kilimanjaro. His buddy Brent (Brent Lydic) knows just what he needs: to gobble down some psychedelic shrooms in the desert. This sends them on an Alice-worthy adventure through Drugland, spinning through time, space, and even media format.
In one brilliant hallucination, the friends materialize within an online toy review show hosted by Navaris (Navaris Darson), who interviews them about the action figure versions of themselves. Tip and Brent even find a magic door in the middle of the desert. So what is on the other side? Don’t be surprised if/when things start getting emotionally heavy as these two journey further into the center of the mind.
The trip film is a sub-genre of drug movies pioneered by Corman’s The Trip and perfected by Kounen’s Blueberry and Cosmatos’s Mandy. Its purpose is to recreate the hallucinogenic experience so those not on drugs can understand it, and those on drugs can trip balls even harder. Spirit Quest is a worthy addition to the pantheon, particularly as shrooms are being adopted within the therapeutic realm. Co-writers Lydic and Scarry structure the film as a comedy, employing a skit format that dovetails snugly into each chapter.
Scarry and Lydic are funny and take advantage of the uninhibited nature of the drug film for some wild laughs. How many other titles open with Dracula playing ukulele alongside an astronaut banging a tambourine? There is also some world-class animation by Cory McGill that lets you know when the mushrooms have kicked in.
“…gobble down some psychedelic shrooms in the desert.”
However, the filmmakers don’t shy away from portraying the self-revelations that the fungi summons. The recurring image of an astronaut, a trippy thing to see in the middle of the desert, also references exploration into areas unvisited. By the sixth chapter, we have left behind comedy completely for an emotional flashback that initially seems irrelevant but is actually the revelation at the end of the rainbow. Spirit Quest is not a lightweight acid pie thrower. This is some serious stuff.
While this trip sustains the altitude for most of the flight, we run into turbulence in a sequence called “Saints and Sinners.” This is when Scarry and Lydic cease to be Tip and Brent and split into other personas in different centuries. Hundreds of years ago, they exist as monks on a mission in New Mexico, while in modern times, they exist as a pair of dirtbag criminals fighting over the only woman present, Jessica (Kendell Dill). Thematically this sequence makes sense and comments on the lofty ambitions versus the baser natures of humans.
This digression is a laugh riot, especially Scarry’s work as the motormouth monk tormenting Lydic’s, who took a vow of silence. However, it serves the comedy at the expense of the dramatic momentum that should’ve been sustained into a more emotional section as the ending draws near. Another bump in the road is the sequence involving Campfire Eddie (Tim Fox). It goes on for too long without any real payoff, making it dead weight.
Pacing issues aside, the conclusion is satisfying and the overall trip worth taking. Spirit Quest also has the visual firepower to confound the viewer’s senses, medicated or not. Lydic achieves his goal of bringing the magic mushroom experience to audiences, even if it is the sausage party version. Invite some women to the trip in the sequel, as I wouldn’t mind going on this hallucinatory ride again.
"…the overall trip worth taking."