Sci-Fi’s 6 Best Sensory Deprivation Scenes

Sci-Fi’s 6 Best Sensory Deprivation Scenes

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Did you love Eleven’s interdimensional travels? Maybe an ‘Altered States’ viewing is in order.

Winston Cook-Wilson August 1, 2016 Stranger Things

You might not expect a sci-fi TV series steeped in 1980s cultural references to hinge on a newly-trendy practice advocated by Joe Rogan. Yet, sensory-deprivation tanks are central to some of the key scenes in Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Tanks are a classic sci-fi trope, in films from Alien to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me to Interstellar. They usually preserve people through space travel, or allow them to extend their time on Earth. Sensory deprivation, or being transported to other words through sensory-limiting techniques, is also familiar. Part of this, presumably, has to do with interiority and the infinite worlds inside of us and the human psyche, but on a filmmaking level it probably owes a lot to the fact that it looks super cool when people with wires attached to them freak out in tubs of water.

Want more Eleven-style journeys into big, scary voids? Check out this selection of movies and TV shows in which sensory-deprivation factors heavily.

Altered States (1980)

The plot of Ken Russell’s thriller actually provoked greater use of the devices. The movie is based on a play inspired by the real work of neuroscientist John Lilly, who took hallucinogens and other psychotropic drugs before going into isolation in a salt-water tank.

Fans of fare like Videodrome will love the way the Lilly character, Professor Edward Jessup, finds his psychedelic experiences folding into his reality. Its a great monster movie too, since Jessup can’t get out of his hallucinatory state the same way he went in.

Fringe (2008-2013)

Disgruntled and/or daring scientists experimenting with hallucinatory practices in an attempt to travel to a parallel universe — traces of Russell’s movie, as well as the inter-dimensional conflict of Stranger Things, are all over this one. There’s even a deprivation tank in the pilot episode, so go ahead and get started…Continue Reading…


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