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Three twisted tales from the seamy side of Scotland and the mind of Irvine Welsh. The Granton Star Cause: in the same day a young Leith lad is dumped by his football team, his girlfriend and his parents, arrested and beaten up by the police and turned into a fly by God, whom he meets in a pub. The Soft Touch: a man is too soft to do anything when his wife moves in with the thug upstairs. The Acid House: while tripping on acid, Coco Bryce is struck by lightning, causing him to switch bodies with a newborn baby. Written by
Alexander Lum <email@example.com>
Interesting exercise in surrealism in a film industry dominated by realism.
Like Trainspotting a mere year before it, The Acid House adopts the approach of telling a groggy and visually disgusting tale about Scottish people living lives full of drugs, sex and the like in locations that visually repulse you. Remember the 'worst toilet in Scotland' scene in Trainspotting? The Acid House sees its characters pretty much inhabit locations akin to this one 80% of the time and the characters get up to all sorts of equally repulsive activities like unknowingly eating food covered with essence of dog faeces and being buggered by a woman complete with strap on. But Trainspotting wasn't all gross out and allowed us outside into public parks and streets; it allowed us daylight and, to a degree, relief from its content. The Acid House grants us outdoor scenes but has the characters spinning round uncontrollably and presents a lot of its shots in close up format complete with odd angles and fast edits - you could be forgiven for feeling sick.
The Acid House was penned by Trainspotting writer Irvin Welsh and follows a similarly dank and downbeat style of storytelling and setting. This time the film is split up into three shorts rather than one continuous narrative alá Trainspotting which some others might tell you felt like two stories given the path involving the drug deal the film decides to go down right nearer the end. Visually, The Acid House is very similar to Trainspotting but it also blurs the boundary between realism and surrealism in the same fashion Trainspotting did. If there's one thing I enjoyed Trainspotting for, it was the use of the everyday; of the mundane in locales and dialogue as people spouted Sean Connery trivia and made reference to famous goals in World Cups gone by.
But Trainspotting also incorporated a fair amount of surrealism or of the impossible in real life. The Acid House adopts this combined approach and Welsh often uses drugs as a catalyst once again to get across the odd content. A lot of the ambiguity is missing in The Acid House; whereas when Renton went down the toilet and came home soaking wet, there's no obvious link that he literally went down the toilet in order to get wet whereas when the character of Coco (Bremner) is struck by lightening, he has transformed into someone else's body and that's a clear cut reason for the story to even happen. It's not so much a criticism as it is a perspective; the ambiguity worked well in Trainspotting and added to the overall tone of the humour whereas The Acid House crosses the line and tells us that this sort of thing is possible in the film's universe. I have to say that I preffered it when it was ambiguous.
The Acid House's first story provides good ammunition for Claire Monk's theory about the British male in crisis in the 1990s. Boab (McCole) is a young, British male whose life systematically falls apart within an hour or so he is a man in crisis. He is humiliated and dumped by his partner down the phone for being unable to 'satisfy' her thus rendered inadequate and unfit to adopt the role of a male partner in a relationship. He also looses his job thus becoming unemployed, another ingredient to Monk's theory to do with a male 'panic' in contemporary British cinema. But a meeting with God (Roëves) in a pub, again giving the film a clear cut surrealistic feel rather than ambiguously so, sees him changed into a fly to wreck revenge. This seems to have sparked some controversy given it presents 'God' in a less than flattering manner and has him swear a lot. But more so from my perspective, God is a character that gives certain individuals the powers to maim and harm, something Boab takes full advantage of.
The first story whilst beginning interestingly, minutely fails dramatically with its close ups of half eaten food, dog excrement and fat, sweaty men being penetrated with a dildo in their living room. The second story is easier to identify with in the sense there is a clear source for antagonism and its lead character is put in a position we may feel sorry for. Johnny (McKidd) gets a new neighbour in Larry (McCormack) who doesn't take long to become the crazed individual we sense upon the first meeting. The story is more realistic in the sense it focuses on a lower class part of society as they live in cramped and downbeat living conditions with frequent long shots of other buildings and people looking out of their windows as one. The situation and the manner in which it plays out with people at stake and a distressed baby making itself known at certain times keeps the story routed and somewhat humbling.
The third story is the most outlandish and sees football obsessed Coco struck by lightening thus switching mindsets with an unborn baby. The idea is interesting in the sense it's an adult in a baby's body and vice-versa. But the scenario is played for laughs disappointingly so; Coco can't wait for the next breast feeding session and watches his newly adopted parents go at it in the bedroom with perverted glee. The Freudian elements begin to crop up here to do with a babies mapping on and attraction to its mother but it's a little weak. On the flipside, the film takes a good actor like Bremner and has him lie in a bed screaming for most of the time. I've seen a lot worse but The Acid House isn't a great film; it's grimy and unpleasant but isn't as brilliant as it might think it is.
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