Review: Spun (2002)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #667

Number of Views: Three
Release Date: June 14, 2002
Sub-Genre: Cult Film
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Producers: Chris Hanley, Fernando Sulichin, Timothy Wayne Peternel, Danny Vinik
Screenplay: William De Los Santos, Creighton Vero
Cinematography: Eric Broms
Score: Billy Corgan
Editing: Jonas Åkerlund
Studios: Silver Nitrate Films, Brink Films
Distributor: Newmarket Capital Group
Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, Patrick Fugit, Peter Stormare, Alexis Arquette, Deborah Harry, Eric Roberts, Chloe Hunter, Nicholas Gonzalez, Charlotte Ayanna, China Chow

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Dead Or Alive “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”

[2] Orbital “Last Thing”

[3] Billy Corgan “Think You Know”

[4] Billy Corgan “Always”

[5] Zwan “Number Of The Beast”

Rocket packs at the ready Grueheads as things are set to go decidedly off-the-wall for the foreseeable. You see, I’m about to venture bravely forth into Jonas Åkerlund’s 2002 head fucker, Spun, a dizzying introduction to the Oregon drug subculture back when methamphetamine was doing the rounds at the turn of the millennium. The thing is, while I’m more than happy to “go method” for the sake of art, I also draw the line way before the dreaded crystal meth and would have no idea where to score some if I was stupid enough. That said, my inner hippy does appear to be yearning for some “real living” and there are other ways in which to expand one’s mind.

Amphetamines are stimulants and I have decided to go against the grain and bust out the hallucinogens to gain access to the higher state of consciousness required. Every rollercoaster worth its big dips needs an entry point and a 200 mg dose of 1-propionyl-lysergic acid diethylamide seems the ideal drop-in for this particular exercise. Right now it is working its way through my bloodstream and starter’s orders don’t come much more definitive than that. Heaven help us all (particularly yours truly) and I’ll be seeing you at the core reactor fellow space cadets.

Okay so I’d be lying straight if I said that it’s an easy wave to ride as this gradual takeover brings with it a feeling of hostility almost impossible to place into words. That may have something to do with the fact that I know full well the horse has bolted now, and for better or worse, the next ten or so whacked out hours will be spent under its sole jurisdiction. Like it or not, I’m acid’s bitch now until further notice, thus I shall attempt the almost physically impossible and ride this Technicolor wave to its unnatural conclusion. I’m hoping that many of you will be relating hard to my current plight as you know words aren’t easily prised from such a feeling of utter helplessness.

I’m practically a fetus right now, the brain child of my own preposterous imagination, and would rather suckle some teats than vocalize at times like these. But I’ll take this one for the team darn toot it and see where that leads us. After all, that’s the fun of it right? It all comes flooding back in an instant once we approach the first of many loop-da-loops as I can barely hold my act together enough to wrestle free a solitary syllable at this present moment and need this feeling to level out before I can even conceive of continuation.

Forget the dryness in my throat, the constant muscle tremors, the massively increased heart-rate or flat-out nausea twisting me up inside as I write this as that shit has bad trip written all over it and I’m not dumb enough to take that tormented trajectory for the sake of creative flourish. It’s rough with the smooth time folks and I’m reasonably assured the ending is a happy one. Totally FUBAR perhaps but happy nonetheless. We haven’t even arrived at the tripping bollocks stage yet, and God forbid we dock in that particular bay before tooling up appropriately. Thus I’m going to rein it in some and attempt to get back to the task at hand. And here’s how it’s gonna play out. The central character in Spun is called Ross right?

Not that fucking Ross numskull. Who’s working the slides here for crissakes? Anyhoots, moving swiftly on, I reckon I can tune into our lead’s wavelength given how much of a rabbit in headlights I am currently. Provided I stick with him and don’t dare deviate from our flight path, then this should be like taking candy from a baby (WITH FLAILING TENDRILS FOR ARMS!!!). Fuck it, I’m a people person, all I have to do to get through this nightmare is act normal right? You know, blend in. You ever attempted to do that on acid by the way?

Is that you I can hear snickering? I’m just trying to make a crust here and that’s a darned sight easier said than done with the ingredients currently fouling up my pastry dish. At least it’s all for a good cause. Don’t suppose I could trouble you for a quick reminder of what that might be could I? I mean, what the fuck man?!! I’m a man in my forties who could currently pass as spam, the densest patty of shame no less. When quizzed in later life (if I make it that far) about my proudest achievement, this may well be one to sweep under the rug you know. If I don’t harness the beast within sometime soon, then all this curiosity is going to get the better of me. And what will I be left with? Less than spam and that’s hardly gonna fend off those tummy growlers now is it? Speak of the devils, they’re desperate to whisk my tattered remains off to the darkest recesses for further feasting. Leave the scraps for the buzzards lads. They’ve paid their dues just by being buzzards.

Slightly off topic, but there ain’t a GIF on this planetoid that could come close to providing even the sneakiest of peeks into what greets me right now each time I seal my eyelids. Call it a kooky carnival and it will answer you in form of the most exquisite candy imaginable. Find each rhythm, saddle every pulse until you feel fit to explode, then ride that shit as far as it will take you and I’ll meet you smack bang in the middle for hoochy koochies and the kind of candy-coated gorge drizzlers that would put Willy Wonka clean out of business. It’s like riding an immensely proud (and mildly dim-witted) serpent through a never-ending cortex of ever more improbable confectioneries attempting to honk as many hooters as possible on the way through and coming away with half a glass of giggles and a quarter of a clue how to guzzle them down.

Anyhoots, how are things with you? No really, enough about me for a moment please (pretty and sugar-coated), it’s okay for a quick page turner but hardly where you want to set up sticks. It’s okay for you lot, pointing at the goofy space marine while he clowns around like a big top small fry, but I’m the poor pillock who has to share a hypersleep capsule with this nutbag on the voyage home. I believe they refer to it as “the dreaded comedown” and it’s really no less than can be expected after so much rigorous ado about nothing. The New York Times call it “a delightfully fruity dish” and it’s been nominated for several awards all of which amount to little more than spilled membrane and vague head rot. In short, it’s far too tall to cram into your hand luggage and I for one have no intention of setting off those metal detectors just yet. This was supposed to be an in-and-out job dagnabbit.

Again ever so faintly off-topic, have you noticed that nobody looks anything whatsoever less than downright freakish (self-inclusive) when you’re on acid? This shit could make Beyoncé herself look like she’s come off poor second with an Indian head shrinker. Indeed, you may wish to reconsider putting a ring on it after catching a whiff of her vacuum-packed Buckwheat bouffant whilst under this particular influence. And don’t even get me started on the late, great Vince Schiavelli or we’ll never get away.

Lest we not forget the implicit instructions stated on commencement. You bought your tickets, and if you have any grievances, file them with Dorothy in Human Resources and she’ll get round to them when she’s finished head-counting the mackerel. This is what acid feels like and the canniest thing of all is that it feels suspiciously like spiraling madness tinged with excruciating discomfort, which I’m guessing ain’t a whole lot different to the dreaded meth. Sure it looks purty under the right lights, but when the sun comes up, it’s the kind of grunge that no amount of therapy could ever hope to wash away. Tell you what, let yourselves out, and we’ll split the bill. How does that sound? Okay I’ll throw in the hand embroidered turkey baster compliments of the house. You lot drive a hard bargain, I’ll tell you that for free. Now be a dear and call me that medic would you? Honestly, the things I do for a gig. Sheesh! For the record, this music is starting to bend my swede in directions I’m not altogether comfortable with. How’s about we slow things down to a smooch for a few?

Hold on just a cotton picking minute, I’m supposed to be hanging with Ross here. I wonder how that humongous hit of crystal meth he just huffed up his hoot thingy is working out for him? And to think I pride myself on my ability to read body language. The more I look at his timid little phizog, the more he begins to resemble Paul from The Wonder Years. “Here Kevin, sniff my fingers” he cries when we all know the only juice beneath his cuticles tallies up with what he just shot across his poor mother’s lingerie catalogues.

This is excruciating. I do wish Spider Mike would hurry up and hook my shit up man. For anyone who has never had the exclusive pleasure, Spidey as I like to call him is a little like Santa Claus and has been known to hang the stocking some place funny when feeling particularly festive. Whatever your narcotic requirements, Spider Mike can oblige, for the paltry sum of a mere twenty minutes tweaking like a nutbag while he checks the windows for any surface stragglers.

You can’t be too careful in this day and age and this twitchy arachnid has every right to be a little “edgy” given the palava all around him. See for yourself, look at the human silage he invites into his home. Take that Frisbee for example and don’t be afraid to toss him over the fence as I’m sick of the sight of this little puke bubble already and we haven’t even arrived at the mug shot yet. Y’all ready? It ain’t pretty just so you know.

Don’t you just wanna give him a squeeze? You know, just tight enough to rupture that whitehead beneath his bottom lip. Perhaps while you’re at it, you could run your thumb nail along his nose while I go grab the spot cream. Frisbee won’t sweat it as he’s far too preoccupied with not beating his high score on the PlayStation to give a salamander’s snot stream what we’re up to back at the hive. Speaking of which, can anyone else hear distant thrashing? Sounds like Spider Mike’s caught himself a whopper.

No mayo thanks Spidey. Okay then, perhaps just a squirt but only because you went to the trouble. But then I really must be going. I’d love to stay, really I would, but you’ve got a sock on you cock dude. That’s hardly dignified now is it? I mean, it’s bad enough having to listen to Cookie straining out a lumpy dump until the vein in her forehead ruptures without any more irreversible trauma. Tell you what, just leave me here with Nikki and I’ll sniff her hair until she tells me not to.

Are you gonna tell her about the green dog or shall I? Never mind, there are far more pressing concerns right now than the girl who may well be the very one of my dreams, like April the stripper for starters. We all forgot about April the stripper didn’t we? She’s the one currently bound and gagged in Ross’s apartment while he’s out gallivanting in case you were wondering. That reminds me, do vaginas run on the meter?

Listen, this is all getting a little intense. What say we all chill our beans and see what The Cook’s got on the stove? Leave him to his own devices and he’ll gladly knock you up a tasty dish. He’s a very upstanding member of the community that one and not the kind of cowboy who would drink your milk when your back’s turned. Run a few errands for The Cook and he’ll see to it that you’re up for commendation. Before you know it, you could be running for president and if you shoot both his kneecaps then you just might catch him.

The most important thing right now is that all the little chickadees are in the nest with precious little that would stand up in a court of law to make said roost any less cozy. Can’t have the hens up on a battery charge now can we? What would Mullet Cop and Moustache Cop have to say about that? Better yet, I think I hear them pulling up as we speak. Let’s ask them mano to mano. Just give them a moment to remember how to thread a needle and we’ll be in handcuffs by the time it takes Frisbee to relinquish three pints of blood via his testicles. They’d love that I’m sure. Ain’t that right fellas?

Do you ever get the sneaking suspicion you should quit whilst ahead? That’s the thing about suspicions, always sneaking. Like a bunch of Cosbys they are and I’m not talking about the Bing variety either. That’s Crosby you big dumb ape. Hell’s bells, I really should wrap this one up while we can all still act responsibly. Surely I can think of something meaningful to impart before powering down the boosters for the night. Okay here goes. Yo Åkerlund, thanks for all the lickety but I really do have to split. I’m all Spun out you see. What have we learned from this whole exercise? More to the point – what have we unlearned? I’ve unlearned how to peel a banana with my feet. What you got Spider Mike?

Bad time fella? Okay then I shall attempt to surmise as best as I can. Here goes. Spun is more than a movie, it’s a freaking state of mind man. Filthy, grimy, nauseating, icky, gross, mortifying, inappropriate, sweet-natured, deplorable, grungy, itchy, twitchy, putrid, fragrant, subtle, funny, happy, sad, angry, bashful, grumpy, sneezy, doomed, hopeful, genuinely touching, ever so moreish – it’s all of these things and a fair few cherry sprinkles besides.

Through ingenious and vigorous fast cut editing, Åkerlund somehow manages to replicate entire states of emotion and consciousness through collage, double daring us not to be at least mildly romanticized and that is to say that this movie rocks hardcore. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really must get back to sealing my eyelids and continuing to trip bollocks until sunrise. Oh and one more thing while you’ve got the cameras running – Fuck crystal meth man and fuck me too for messing around with gateway drugs when I should be growing old gracefully. Spin this bitches!

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10

Read Bad Acid Appraisal
Read The Big Lebowski Appraisal
Read Boogie Nights Appraisal
Read Garden State Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. I saw this back in the day & marvelled at how well acted it was. Then Acklund became notable for his Smack My Bitch Up video. Very well written, Rich. I felt like I was tripping out with you.

    1. Awesome thing to say. I love taking the reader on a journey and it pleases me massively that you dug the offbeat vibe. Had a lot of fun writing about this wonderful little movie, although it was something of a white-knuckle ride.

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