Welcome to Stoner’s Corner! A monthly column where your favorite spooky stoner (me, hello) takes a look at the trippiest horror films to watch while smoking the Devil’s Lettuce and providing the best ways to indulge yourself from recipes to various smoking methods.
While smoking a blunt and reading NOFS articles, December’s End of Days theme had me pondering deeply about the future of life. If mankind’s exploration into the preservation of life will lead to its own demise, if that makes us naive or virtuous, if…wait. What was I talking about? Right, I was thinking about the 2016 sci-fi horror film Life directed by Daniel Espinosa. It was a film that was unfairly ignored as an Alien rip-off upon release. In reality, it’s quite the heady sci-fi flick tackling themes of scientific morality and human race survival, on top of being a fun alien monster romp. These are just a couple of the many reasons why Life is better than you think, especially if you’re out-of-orbit stoned. So let’s light up and high-sect this bad boy!
Curiosity Killed the Rat
Life follows a crew in a space station who have just secured soil samples taken from Mars containing signs of extraterrestrial life. One aspect that sets it apart from typical sci-fi are the genuine good-natured intentions of the protagonists. There aren’t any secret nefarious plans and the crew is international, showing the countries were willing to put aside their pride to work towards a greater goal. The crew is also smartly tasked with keeping the studies in space, to not bring unknown dangers to earth. Throughout the film, the crew makes generally good decisions, begging the question: did they deserve their terrifying fates?
While most ideal stoned-watches are packed with wild visuals and indescribable energy, Life adds an extra layer of cerebral stimulation by imploring you to ponder some interesting questions regarding life and science. But don’t worry, when things get too existential, that’s when the most badass martian in the galaxy comes around to shake things up: it’s Calvin, baby!
“Life adds an extra layer of cerebral stimulation by imploring you to ponder some interesting questions regarding life and science.”
Move over Xenomorphs, there’s a new perfect specimen in town. Calvin is one of the best sci-fi horror monsters I’ve seen in a while. There are many humans running around this movie, yet I don’t remember any of their names because Calvin is somehow the most captivating character in the whole movie. From distinct evolutionary phases to scientifically accurate analysis (we stoners love science), Calvin is brought to life in quite remarkable fashion. He’s a lean mean, killing machine with dangerous intellect allowing him to adapt to any situation and survive. He goes from being hope that humanity could adapt to sustain life longer to being a dangerous entity that must be destroyed at all costs. Calvin also has his own distinct score and a face the film loves to show close-ups of, which will mess with your space-fried brain the entire film.
Of course, Calvin didn’t start off so nefarious. He almost has a character arc, which is more than I can say for the actual protagonists. The little guy is introduced to us as a group of cells that grow into a gelatinous looking Pokémon as Dr. Hugh Derry learns more about Calvin’s life-sustaining characteristics. The mission was to learn about the martian’s ability to survive the harsh conditions of Mars so we could apply that knowledge to humankind. When Calvin enters a near-death stasis during a round of experiments, Dr. Derry just can’t let go and tries to electrocute Calvin back to life and that’s when the survival instincts kick in. This crew is screwed now, ironic as they were studying Calvin for their own survival. They didn’t take into account his true survival abilities or that they would be forced to witness them first-hand (quite literally for Hugh who gets his hand demolished in Calvin’s first violent act).
Asking the Big Questions
One interesting thing about Life is that it’s a true ensemble piece, with no clear-cut protagonist. Big names like Ryan Reynolds are killed off early and limited to supporting role status, respectively Personally, I loved that the marketing heavily advertised Reynolds and he was game to dupe the audience. Rebecca Ferguson appears to emerge in the third act as our Final Girl, only to be blasted into deep space in the bleak finale. I love a horror movie where no one is safe. Besides, this is Calvin’s movie anyway and as Calvin begins to pick off the crew one by one, absorbing them and becoming stronger, we see some unique character dynamics develop.
What makes Calvin a compelling movie monster is that he very much stands in for the themes of the film. He’s an unknown that the characters approach with optimistic naivety. The humans didn’t have intentions to hurt Calvin, but what are they doing in the grand scheme of things? Say they learn from Calvin that humans could inhabit Mars, that knowledge would inevitably result in earth colonizing the planet and eradicating the alien population (as humans do). Just like the humans, he sees the crew as unknown and Calvin’s first thought is survival. And survive he will! Is Calvin secretly the protagonist of this film? Take a bong rip and ponder that one for a minute.
“There are many heady thoughts floating around in this film, but at its core, this is a monster movie and Calvin does not play games.”
There are many heady thoughts floating around in this film, but at its core this is a monster movie and Calvin does not play games. Where I will make an Alien comparison is in the idea of the “perfect specimen”, which Life actually delivers a little better. Calvin is able to adapt to everything, explained by his cells being able to alternate their functionality between brain neurons, muscles, and photoreceptors at will. Or in the words of Dr. Derry, “all brains, all brawn”. Each set piece shows off Calvin’s intellect and adaptability in increasingly gruesome fashion. Showing him to be not only a flawless tracker but also able to set traps and sabotage technology. Calvin also displays high levels of savagery, including a scene where he exits the space station to go out of his way to kill a crew member before sneaking back into the ship to finish off the rest of the crew. No loose ends for this killer!
As I toke up and fist-pump Calvin on his murder spree, the third act rolls around and drums up some empathy from me towards the human characters. I commend the film in showing the lengths the crew was willing to go to take care of the problem while keeping the planet safe. Characters routinely ignore their personal safety in favor of following protocol to properly destroy Calvin. It’s easy to shout your opinions at the screen but it’s a refreshing change of pace to see humans avoid being selfish or throw their morals out the window during a survival situation. This makes the ending even more frustrating as we see Dr. Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Dr. North trying to blast Calvin into space via an escape pod, with Jordan willing to sacrifice himself to do so. Calvin, who is supremely pissed off and extra, decides to redirect the pod instead so that way North is sent into space and Jordan returns to earth with Calvin to, most likely, take over the planet. So in the end, the crew’s naive nature and goals to increase human’s survival abilities backfires and ends up doing the opposite, dooming the human race. Because let’s be honest, Calvin is destroying the human race no problem.
Since Calvin looks like a little gummy candy slithering around, let’s talk about gummy edibles! They can be tricky for some, especially if you don’t know about proper dosages. One time, I mistakenly ate 100mg of gummies over a 90 minute period and I swear a part of my soul was taken that day. You don’t want this to happen, so you gotta know some basics for a successful edibles experience.
Your level of highness or relaxation come from the THC content within the gummy. Brands are very specific in their labeling to tell you exactly how much THC content there is (THC-CBD ratio) and are usually portioned out in an evenly distributed manner. Your edible tolerance is dictated by factors such as your height/weight, your metabolism, and your general cannabis threshold. So like the scientists of Life, you gotta be up to date on your personal biology! Here is a great breakdown article of general dosage recommendations, but these ranges can vary from consumer to consumer. The article is pretty thorough, but for a quick crash course here’s a few of my personal tips!
“Since Calvin looks like a little gummy candy slithering around, let’s talk about gummy edibles!“
- Start small! Micro-dosing is the best way to get a baseline for your tolerance. Start by consuming 2.5-5mg of THC content per use and see how you feel. You’re always better to eat not enough than too much.
- Wait before eating more. Edibles take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Don’t take more if you don’t feel it right away, and be mindful of your internal timer.
- Pay attention to THC-CBD ratios for a more specific experience (CBD forward for relaxing effects, THC forward for psychoactive effects). You can get gummies that are 100% of either, or various ratios (usually 2:1 or 4:1)
- Go with portioned bars over bags of gummies when possible. Bags of gummies are usually sold with their THC content for the bags given, versus their individual pieces. Gummy bars like Kushy Punch are portioned more accurately with perforated pieces.
- Don’t take edibles on an empty stomach or while drunk. In either instance, the THC will metabolize faster and will result in a sour stomach which is no fun for anybody!
With its combination of existential thoughts on life and monster mayhem, Life is an unlikely choice for stoner movies but makes for a very fun experience! Sure, the performances are wildly inconsistent and the ending might not work for some, but it’s a film that deserves a little more praise. Of course the Alien influence is there, but what sci-fi horror film isn’t influenced by Alien? Tropes and clichés are easily accepted as long as they are used creatively to make something new. And with some trippy cinematography as the camera floats through scenes just like the astronauts themselves, this is a film for you if you wanna get stoned and go to space!
Life succeeds at exploring scientific ideas without dumbing the science down while also creating a memorable alien monster with a fully formed personality. Not to mention some great CGI effects in an age where horror fans crave only practical effects, showing the technology’s potential when used correctly. I implore you to eat a few edible gummies (responsibly portioned) and give this film another go if you weren’t blown-away after your first viewing. I can’t guarantee you’ll love the movie, but you’ll definetley have fun and fall in love with Calvin!
“Life succeeds at exploring scientific ideas without dumbing the science down while also creating a memorable alien monster with a fully formed personality.”
Join me next month to talk more trippy horror movies and the best way to blast off on cannabis! What are your thoughts on Life: uninspired Alien rip-off or hidden gem? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.