Altered States
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In this 1980 sci-fi horror film, William Hurt plays Eddie Jessup, a scientist obsessed with discovering mankind's true role in the universe. To this end, he submits himself to a series of mind-expanding experiments. By enclosing himself in a sensory-deprivation chamber and taking hallucinogenic drugs, Jessup hopes to explore different levels of human consciousness, but instead is devolved into an apelike monster. Director Ken Russell helmed Altered States from a script by Paddy Chayefsky, who adapted his own novel of the same name. Unhappy with the finished product, Chayefsky had his name… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"It opens at fever pitch and then starts soaring -- into genetic fantasy, into a precognitive dream of delirium and delight."
‑ Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine
"[Director] Russell's noisily grandiose swipe at psychedelia embellishes what is no more than the cosily familiar story of the obsessive Scientist Who Goes Too Far and Unwittingly Unleashes, etc."
‑ Jennifer Selway, Time Out
"It's got Russell's trademark eccentricity (read: slight bonkers-ness) all over it, which you may take as a warning or a recommendation."
‑ Ian Nathan, Empire Magazine
"No character -- including William Hurt in the central role -- is even vaguely likable, and the mawkish ending is a laugh. In the Russell tradition, there are brilliant flashes on an overwrought trip to nowhere."
‑ , People Magazine
"The film's too aggressively enjoyable to be completely dismissed, though the ending is risible -- I preferred it when this finale was later reconfigured and reused in a-ha's music video for "Take On Me.""
‑ Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing
"Direction by Ken Russell has energy to spare, with appropriate match-up of his baroque visual style to special effects intensive material."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"I was overwhelmed, I was caught up in its headlong energy."
‑ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"Russell's razzle-dazzle hallucinogenic style certainly hits bullseye."
‑ Alan Jones, Radio Times
"It's by turns pseudo-analytical head-twister and skull-pounding monster romp, including glorious whip-crack dialogue."
‑ , Total Film
"Think of it as an extravagant and exhilarating, if over-the-top, piece of filmmaking that's silly, to be sure, but engrossing at the same time."
‑ John J. Puccio, Movie Metropolis
"There isn't a lucid moment in it (and much of the dialogue is rendered unintelligible by Russell's subversive direction), but it has dash, style, and good looks, as well as the funniest curtain line since Some Like It Hot."
‑ Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
"Dependably -- even exhilaratingly -- bizarre. Its strangeness, which borders cheerfully on the ridiculous, is its most enjoyable feature."
‑ Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Like much of Russell's work, Altered States is ostentatious and pretentious yet genuinely engaged with ideas and style."
‑ Jon Fortgang, Film4
"Dynamite stylistic flourishes approximate the experience of taking mescaline with the Mad Hatter."
‑ Simon Miraudo, Quickflix
"As the proceedings briskly fly, the silliness of the entire endeavor becomes more readily apparent."
‑ Nick Schager, Lessons of Darkness
More reviews for Altered States on Rotten Tomatoes