The Acid House

1998 / 112m - UK
Comedy, Drama
The Acid House poster

Twenty years ago Danny Boyle immortalized Irvine Welsh' Trainspotting, currently Boyle is working on an unnamed Trainspotting sequel, featuring the original cast. If you're having a hard time waiting for Boyle's latest, you could always watch Filth, or you could give Paul McGuigan's The Acid House a try. Not the slickest of Welsh' film adaptations, but a perfect diversion for those who simply can't get enough of Scotland's less fortunate.

screen capture of The Acid House

McGuigan's The Acid House is an adaptation of the same-titled book. Welsh' original work is a collection of short stories, so it's really no surprise that the film ended up an anthology project. The style is pretty consistent for an anthology film, but that's not too uncommon when all the parts are filmed by the same director. McGuigan restricted himself to adapting just three of the book's shorts, as to give each story ample time to develop.

First one up is The Granton Star Cause, the story of Boab's encounter with God. Boab is having a pretty bad day. His football team doesn't want him anymore, his girlfriend dumped him, his parents want him out of the house and to top it all off, he got sacked from his puny job. His luck is bound to change when he runs into God at his local pub, but Boab is about to find out that God isn't as nice a bloke as he's often made out to be. Actually, God is pretty angry at Boab for slacking off and Boab is going to find out angry gods can be pretty spiteful.

The Granton Star Cause is a comedy in the same way Trainspotting or Ex Drummer is a comedy. It isn't really laugh out loud funny, but there's a dark, cynical undercurrent that serves as solid groundwork for some edgy comedy. Welsh' characters are tragic in their failure and when coupled with an asshole God it's hard not to snigger at their misfortunes. It's a good short to start off this film, though probably the weakest of the three. 3.5*/5.0*.

screen capture of The Acid House

The second short is A Soft Touch, the most dramatic entry of the three. It follows the mishappenings of Johnny, a young guy with few prospects in life, who gets married to a downright horrible woman after getting her pregnant. Before long their relationship is in shambles, but Johnny stays with his wife because of the kid they share. That is, until they get a new upstairs neighbor. Larry is pretty much the worst neighbor you can imagine, but again Johnny is too soft to stand up for himself.

While Larry is a fun character (unless you're dealing with a guy like that in real life of course), A Soft Touch is a generally tragic tale about a guy who means well but who is let down by the people around him. Unable to properly stand up for himself, Johnny's life slips away from him with his newly born daughter as the ultimate victim. Again the Trainspotting comparisons aren't far off, but since this is a more contained story the dramatic impact is a tad stronger. 4.0*/5.0*

screen capture of The Acid House

Mention The Acid House to me and a voice inside my head will go "Coco fuckin' Bryce!". It's hardwired in there somehow. The first two shorts are nice enough, but what makes this film truly memorable is the last one (also called The Acid House). It's about a young bloke who switches brains with a newly born baby. While mom is shocked by her foul-mouthed offspring, Coco's girlfriend suddenly has to tend to a baby in a young man's body.

It's a fun setup, sporting good jokes and some rather eerie effects (the talking baby is just creepy), but this really is Ewen Bremner's little one man show. He was one of the highlights of Trainspotting and one-ups his Spud character as Coco Bryce. His delivery, his facial expressions, his sudden mood swings, it's all just perfection. Add some manic editing and a fun soundtrack and what you get is a pretty insane, loud yet very entertaining short film. 4.5*/5.0*

I'll readily admit that I have a pretty big soft spot for the Scottish accent. It sounds like somebody had a little too much fun with English and messed up all the vowels. Sure enough you'll need subtitles along the way, but it adds something incredibly juicy to the dialogues. Visually the films is a little barren, though some fun camera angles and crazy editing tricks make it pretty bearable. The acting is good, the stories are smart and the sense of humor is typically Welsh: dark and tragic. The Acid House won't disappoint Welsh fans, but a Danny Boyle film it is not.