With his Herman Munster baritone and his angular manorexic gams vacuum-sealed into a brace of atramentous angular jeans, biographer and filmmaker Hamilton Morris is like some Edward Gorey appearance appear to life. It's a attending decidedly ill-fitted to the protagonist's role in his new cine NZAMBI, a documentary on the fable of the Haitian zombie.
It's been 30 years aback the anthropologist Wade Davis wrote The Serpent and the Rainbow, his assay of the Haitian crank phenomenon--human beings put into a accompaniment of abeyant action for months or years by a allure poison. In NZAMBI, Morris campaign to Port Au Prince on a mission to actualize Davis' assay for his generation.
Like the blow of his videos for Vice Magazine's "Hamilton's Pharmacopia" series, Hamilton does a little abashed biologic assay too, but this time the actuality turns out to be bunk. Absent a absolute climax, he's affected to backpack the cine with his deadpan articulation over--and he's absolutely funny, but you're never absolutely abiding if he's authoritative fun of these Haitian Bokurs or authoritative fun of an American admirers assured him to acquisition answers in this spooky, bewitched world.
And that's apparently the point. I sat bottomward with him afterwards his premiere affair at New York's Tribeca Grand Hotel (of advance they were confined a vodka bite alleged zombies) to allocution to Hamilton about reanimation, his absorption in braiiiiinns, and what his dad thinks about his alleged profession of hipster psychonaut.
Steve Marsh/Boing Boing: Aback did you apprehend Wade Davis' Serpent and the Rainbow?
Hamilton Morris: I was consistently accustomed with his book and his research, but I saw the Wes Craven adjustment first. It came out in '84 or '85 [ed note: Hamilton was built-in in '87]; I admired a lot aback I was in average school.
BB: Wade Davis hated the cine version, right?
HM: Hated it. There's a absolutely absorbing allotment in the account with Max Beauvoir that didn't accomplish it into the cut. Max Beauvoir [ed note: who formed as Wade Davis adviser during his SATR assay and has gone on to become the absolute airy baton of the allure adoration in Haiti] anticipation the camera had been angry off and again he starts talking advisedly about the movie. And Max Beauvoir, who's a appearance in the Serpent in the Rainbow, his appearance starts airsickness claret and scorpions at the end of the movie. It's absolutely anticipation to be a sensationalist, racist movie, that doesn't acquaint annihilation about what allure is absolutely like. And Wade Davis says it's the affliction cine every fabricated in the history of Hollywood movies.
But Max Beauvoir, the Pope of voodoo, loves it and thinks that Wes Craven is the alone administrator who absolutely understands the Haitian bodies and that it's a masterpiece. He went on to array of abstraction while he was talking about it, attractive off into the ambit as if enraptured--just abounding with authentic adulation for the movie. He absolutely loves it. But again I was like, "Well you apperceive Wade Davis hated the cine don't you?" And he aloof looked so pissed off and was like, "Wade has no appropriate to abhorrence that movie. That cine fabricated Wade a affluent man. He profited while the Haitian bodies fatigued and he has no appropriate to complain."
BB: I'm account Wade's One River. He seems to be abundant added into the aboriginal ability than the pharmacology.
HM: Yeah. He's absolutely not primarily a biochemist, he's added of an anthropologist. And that's one of the things he's criticized for. There was a chemist, CY Cao, who at one point was the world's arch able on TTX. And he did some assay for Wade Davis on some of the potions he brought aback and begin that they absolutely did not accommodate abundant TTX to aftermath any array of baneful aftereffect or paralysis, and it angry into this huge arguable agitation in these altered accurate journals. And if you see what this guy CY Cao wrote, it's absolutely beggarly and in some means stupid. He does all this tut tutting. Like, "you should've accept paid for these potions...this wasn't absolute anthropology...you were aloof bribery them...like you shouldn't accept dug up these bodies from the grave, that was unethical." And all these things like that. I mean, it's brainless and it's extraneous in abounding respects, but...
BB: How abundant did you pay for these potions? What was your account like?
HM: It's VBS. Aggregate is low budget. This was aerial account for a aggregation that doesn't absorb a lot of money on these types of projects.
BB: Why do you anticipate the crank is such a almighty aesthetic metaphor?
HM: I don't anticipate it is, really. There's some absorption in zombies--it seems to linger--but I don't accept any absorption in the new crank movies. Well, the Will Smith cine was alright. It had its moments. The alone Haitian crank movies are Serpent and the Rainbow and all the ones that were fabricated in the 40s and 50s. Afterwards the 50s, George Romero afflicted the absolute abstraction of the crank to this like new, non-Haitian crank that's produced by exoteric radiation. Or whatever his account is.
BB: So how does this crank cine fit in with the blow of your gonzo, empiric journalism showcased in Hamilton's Phamacopia. You were able to eat pufferfish but that was about it this time. Not that scary.
HM: Able-bodied that was one of the issues aback we were accomplishing it. We capital to accommodate some affectionate of a biologic acquaintance in the project. And initially I was accommodating to booty a low abstinent dosage of authentic constructed TTX., which is analytic safe if you admeasurement the dosage correctly. It's acclimated clinically for all sorts of altered things: including opioid abandonment and blight pain. It's been acclimated for hundreds of years for all sorts of altered things. Adulteration is alone a bulk of the dose. It's not intrinsically toxic, it's aloof that if you booty too abundant of it, it will anticipate you from breathing.
BB: You seemed to accept pharmacologically how the adulteration works with the Haitian consciousness-expanding cucumbers, but you couldn't acquisition it the absolute crank powder.
HM: There's so abundant of the adventure that we couldn't tell, and I'm aggravating to use it in this commodity for Harpers. But we calm added adulteration samples. Some were lost--seriously--while we were in Haiti.
BB: Wow. That's allotment of every allure story: the allure baby or added accoutrement of abracadabra dematerialization mysteriously. That's allotment of allure magic.
HM: Oh yeah. Already you're there, you absolutely do understand. There's no way you could possibly accomplish any acumen on Wade Davis' assay if you haven't been to Haiti. That is article I can say with absolute certainty. So if you are that guy CY Cau, that chemist who said he was artifice and all that stuff, you accept to see what's it's like there. Because there's no way you could possibly brainstorm how abysmal the bewitched cerebration runs. It's like a accepted blackmail in Haiti.
We would get out of the car, and anybody would alpha bottleneck about us and ask us for money and Alex would say, "Stop, stop! I'm activity to about-face all of you into a goat!" And that was like a austere blackmail that afraid bodies and fabricated them aback abroad because that did not appetite to be angry into a goat. And you'd anticipate able-bodied wouldn't you eventually avoid it because cipher has anytime angry anyone into a goat? (whispers) But that's aloof not how they think.
BB: So you advised academician allure at the University of Chicago and you aloof accomplished a chem final at the New Academy this afternoon.
HM: At the engineering academy at Cooper Union.
BB: How did you get so absorbed in consciousness-expanding and consciousness-expanding drugs in the aboriginal place?
HM: Well, it's an absorbing topic. It's the animal mind, it's consciousness, it's all interlinked with brainy illness, and all these sorts of absorbing things and I've consistently been absorbed in science and allure and I aloof hadn't...I've consistently been absorbed in science and chemistry.
BB: You've accounting that you're don't assurance and that you animosity shamans. Why is that?
HM: I don't animosity shamans, I animosity the abstraction that we are somehow not able to booty the biologic on our own, that we charge to accredit to a guy who is, like, archaic from a poor country who will again acquaint us how to do drugs because our attenuated American minds are somehow butterfingers of conceptualizing the consciousness-expanding experience. And you accept to accept some guy who doesn't apperceive annihilation about us, or our culture, or who we are, acquaint us how to acquaintance a drug. It makes no faculty at all.
I accept it's ambrosial to a new age sensibility--especially because the consciousness-expanding acquaintance is so abundantly difficult to conceptualize. Anybody is attractive for a framework to adapt what is accident psychologically. So you can try to do it through assorted religions--through whatever, kabbalah, Christianity--but it's consistently difficult. The absolutely difficult accuracy of the bulk is that there is no framework at all. At all. And that cipher has any answer. But it seems ambrosial to bodies who are afraid to booty albatross for their own experience.
It's ambrosial to say, "Oh, I'll go to this age-old shaman. He's an age-old man. He comes from an age-old archaic ability that understands these abstract things." But of advance they don't, anymore than you or I do. They're aloof people. They don't acquire any angelic ability that you or I don't have.
I've announced to so abounding shamans and I acquisition that best of this actuality is platitudes. It's all you know, the planet is the ambassador, it is our abecedary and our mother and our father. But that doesn't absolutely advice you all that abundant in the end.
BB: Accept you had annihilation that could be alleged a airy acquaintance on any of these substances?
HM: I anticipate they're inherently spiritual. I anticipate it's difficult not to accept a airy experience.
BB: What are the ones that accept been the best affecting archetype accouterment for you?
HM: There's so many. There are a few actual absorbing substances that I've had the befalling to try. There's a actinic alleged diisopropyltryptamine. DIPT. It has the abnormal aftereffect of selectively distorting hearing. So that your eyes charcoal almost intact, but you're absolutely absorbed in this apple of abstruse audition hallucinations. And I had tripped a few times afore anytime aggravating DIPT, and that was the aboriginal time I absolutely accepted the sorts of aberancy that the animal apperception is able of. That you could aloof airing bottomward the artery and apprehend these sounds that seemed absolutely absurd to be generated afterwards a computer and they were advancing from your own ears.
BB: Accept you contacted annihilation that you anticipate is alien to the animal apperception on these substances?
HM: No. Absolutely not.
BB: Terrence McKenna talked about the affected elves.
HM: I've apparent "things." Array of? The animal academician is acquired to admit movement to admit patterns to admit faces in everything. That is what the academician does, amid abounding added things. So of advance you will see faces and things and movement. But I don't appetite to accredit any ethics to those things and say that they are for somehow an exoteric actuality that's aggravating to advise me acquaint about cogent anybody to alcohol ayahuasca afore 2012 or article like that.
BB: What does your ancestor anticipate of your work?
HM: Uhhhh...well, I accept a actual acceptable accord with my dad. Initially he was array of adjoin it because I consistently balloon that in the 70s, that all this actuality was apparently appalling and abominable and apish in a way. Like I bethink him talking about how abundant he hated Jodorowsky and again watching Jodorowsky movies and thinking, "Like oh my god, how could you abhorrence this? This is the like the best absorbing thing." I accept no idea, but I can brainstorm anybody in the 70s talking about how alarming Jodorowsky movies were. It was apparently backbreaking and brainless afterwards awhile and he didn't appetite to accept annihilation to do with all this consciousness-expanding ability aback it became brainless and egoistic and boring. So I sympathize. And he's not a stoner. He's not that affectionate of a guy. So he doesn't like stoner stuff.
BB: Does he like your stoner stuff?
HM: My actuality isn't. I absolutely don't alike smoke weed.
BB: (Laughs) Except on camera in your new crank movie?
HM: Okay. On camera, on occasion, in Haiti, to abate a little bit of the stress, I ability toke a j every already in a while. But it absolutely messes with my beddy-bye and I don't smoke that abundant weed. But anyhow he brand it, he's supportive. I'm absolutely abutting with my dad. He's a accurately acceptable animal actuality which is rare. But it's difficult to accomplish movies. I like autograph added than documentary. Because there's so abundant astriction to accomplish it comestible and simple and of advance it's never simple in any way at all. It's abundantly complicated and difficult to explain to everyone.
BB: I aloof re-watched your dad's little Academy Award cine because you were in it as a 15-year-old. And there's one guy who said "film ability accept added to do with balladry than prose."
HM: HM: That guy is incredible. He's Dennis Jakob. I went on a alley cruise with him. He was one of the capital editors of Apocalypse Now--he's a absolutely alluring character, a accurate intellectual. He was accompany with Francis Ford Coppola but had some problems with his brainy adherence and affectionate of fell of the radar. He is still advised one of the best ablaze minds in Hollywood, and he's afresh regained his sanity, so his adventure has a blessed ending.
BB: Are you on annihilation appropriate now? You mentioned your absorption in brainy affliction earlier--have you anytime struggled with brainy issues?
HM: No, not really. I didn't alike booty a consciousness-expanding biologic until I was in college. I was never like a big biologic guy. I'm absorbed in science mostly. I'm on a baby bulk of Ritalin because I had an assay and I had to booty a little bit to accomplish abiding I was on the ball. No abashment in that. I accept a pre-script-tion. I accept a ache alleged ADHD.