For every licensed, warm, reparative therapy, there exists the inverse; a self-help guru who seeks to prey on the gullible. Famously, the Hare Krishna in the 1970s was such a predator. In director Emrhys Cooper’s The Shuroo Process, we meet another paradigmatic example of such a bottom-feeder, Guru Shuroo, better known as Irish villain Declan Costigan (Donal Brophy). Guru Shuroo came to himself after a car crash 20 years ago when he began anew after a 2-week coma. At least, that’s the story he tells his would-be therapy subjects.
Parker Schafer (Fiona Dourif) is a self-centered coke fiend who is both high-strung and emotionally damaged. Until recently, Schafer was employed as a journalist and personality at Rogue magazine, a clear stand-in for The Village Voice. Now she finds herself unemployed after a particularly raucous and debauched event where she disgraced herself and the magazine. Having hit rock bottom, she comes to Guru Shuroo for help.
He enacts radically unconventional and dangerous therapy methods, as many terrible events and life details are brought to light. Here we see our would-be therapy candidates put through rituals such as throwing away a treasured keepsake representing past trauma, meditating while practicing the Lamaze breathing technique, and experiencing illicit spirit journeys powered by mescaline obtained in a less than legal fashion. This film is as funny as it is scandalous.
“…experiencing illicit spirit journeys powered by mescaline…”
The Shuroo Process serves as a wondrous acting showcase for the co-writer Donal Brophy and Emrhys Cooper, who plays D’arcy, another person going through therapy. Brophy digs into his role with great bravado and aplomb. He puts all his considerable energies into portraying the less-than-noble guru, and it ties the entire narrative together quite effectively. In fact, every actor who shows up on screen, even for just a brief spell (such as Brad Dourif and Eric Roberts), all do incredible work.
The standout scene, by far, is the group spirit journey. Whereas a licensed and certified therapist would probably have committed such an action in an environment they could completely control, Guru Shuroo initiates it in the woods near the cabin. Everyone meanders about, eventually all finding themselves in the local bar. The wild, unhinged debauchery on display is definitely not therapeutic by anyone’s yardstick. It is, however, awfully funny and delightfully madcap. I found it most delectable in a deeply sinful sort of way.
Guru Shuroo is a sumptuous feast of questionable morals and criminal intelligence. Littered throughout the weekend of therapy, Parker trips over small indiscreet exchanges wherein she uncovers the depths of both Shuroo’s depravity and his sketchy behavior. Parker learns of his acts of identity theft, frozen bank accounts, and back door dealings with a local drug supplier. As such, Shuroo’s complete portrait is that of a bastard, which leads to some compelling scenes throughout.
Ultimately, a showcase of acting and storytelling comes down to the strength of both the narrative and the performance. The Shuroo Process provides us with wonderful examples of both. Seek this out as soon as you possibly can.
"…as funny as it is scandalous."