On Tuesday, production studio A24 released an extremely disturbing trailer for the Kirsten Dunst-led film Woodshock. In the cinematic montage of scenes, the tension between Northern California’s misty beauty and stark, blood-soaked flashes hints that audiences are in for a beguiling, disturbing ride. At the unnerving heart of the film, directed by high fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, is a familiar substance which its psychotic effects aren’t well understood in the real world: cannabinoids.
A24’s film notes for Woodshock address the psychoactive substance directly:
Woodshock is a hypnotic exploration of isolation, paranoia, and grief that exists in a dream-world all its own. Kirsten Dunst stars as Theresa, a haunted young woman spiraling in the wake of profound loss, torn between her fractured emotional state and the reality-altering effects of a potent cannabinoid drug.
The exact identity of the “potent cannabinoid drug” Theresa consumes is a mystery. But it’s not wrong to say that a cannabinoid-based drug could lead to a state of psychosis. It would help to know whether Theresa’s drug is a known synthetic cannabinoid drug or a new drug altogether. In the real world, synthetic cannabinoids are lab-produced chemicals that largely mimic the structure of the primary psychoactive chemical compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannbinol (THC).
Though it had been known that the cannabinoids in marijuana have potential antipsychotic effects, a 2014 article in Schizophrenia Bulletin reported that THC can also cause paranoia. Before this study was released, researchers weren’t sure whether people felt paranoid after consuming THC because of the THC itself or because they were already primed to be paranoid. This study determined that THC actually was the cause of paranoia and anxiety among the participants who previously hadn’t felt those symptoms. It’s important to note that not all of the participants in the study experienced these symptoms (only of the participants experienced paranoia), but the link between ingesting THC and triggering paranoia was made clearer. Still, the relationship is still not fully understood.
Scientists do know there’s an increased chance of experiencing paranoia when a person consumes synthetic cannabinoids, either in the form of a pseudo-plant material like Spice or as a liquid (Theresa appears to use the latter in the trailer). In the worst cases, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the psychotic effects of synthetic cannabinoids are paired with hallucinations, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts.
Those darker elements appear to be at play in this first look at Woodshock. Audiences, however, will have to wait until September 15, 2017, to really know what is going on in this eerie, drug-tinged film.