The Acid House (1998)

Starring Stephen McCole, Maurice Roëves, Garry Sweeney, Jenny McCrindle, Simon Weir, Iain Andrew, Kevin McKidd, Michelle Gomez, Gary McCormack, Tam Dean Burn, Alison Peebles, Ewen Bremner, Martin Clunes, Jemma Redgrave, Arlene Cockburn, Jane Stabler

Directed by Paul McGuigan

Expectations: Moderate and curious.


I didn’t know much going into The Acid House, and that was perfect. All I knew was that it had an ugly cover on Netflix, and that the Scottish accents were supposedly so thick that in some screenings it ran with subtitles for those unable to decipher the “English” being spoken. And immediately upon starting The Acid House, I knew exactly what they were talking about. Not the characters mind you, the rumors about it being indecipherable. But like a friend that helps you stagger home from the pub, Netflix was kind enough to provide subtitles on its Instant stream by default, so even Yanks like myself can get the full experience from The Acid House. This worked out great, as honestly I would’ve been lost otherwise.

The Acid House is an anthology film adapting three short stories from the work of Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting. So when, just a few minutes in, I thought the film was remarkably similar in tone and style to Trainspotting (a film I saw several times in my teenage years), it all made sense to learn it came from the same brain. But where my memory of Trainspotting tells me that film was shocking, realistic and heartbreaking, The Acid House is shocking, fantastical and hilarious. I loved it, start to finish, but this is definitely not a film for everyone.

The main reason it’s not for everyone is that it’s really fucked up. Not in a violent, “oh, that dude’s head just exploded” kinda way, but in a “masturbating baby” kinda way. If you just laughed at that, then you should probably watch this movie. All others will find more suitable entertainment at any one of the fine video retailers populating the globe. If you had an indifferent reaction to the thought of a masturbating baby, then I offer one more test. While I enjoyed each and every time someone said cunt in the film (which was so often I wouldn’t even consider trying to keep track of a number), my favorite line was: “Lick yer Ma’s piss-flaps, ya cunt!” How fuckin’ inventive is that? It takes a certain type of person to appreciate this humor, but if that’s you then The Acid House definitely delivers.

Now as I mentioned before, this is an anthology film, and a great one at that. The three stories are each about 35 minutes, and they move at a very quick pace. The first one drags a bit towards the beginning, but once the twist comes, the minutes buzz by quicker than you can shoo a fly away from your food. While this review would be more fun — and perhaps better — if I revealed all the spoilers, I think it would be at the detriment to your enjoyment of the film. The twists are loads of fun, and really should be experienced firsthand. Just know that in these tales, anything goes.

Nothing in the narratives connect the three stories other than the general setting, but the three main characters are all variations on the theme of the loser. The first kid is a loser because he squanders every opportunity before him, no matter what it is. Wherever he could have done something meaningful, he instead took the easy route of little effort. The second guy is a loser that knows he’s a loser, but allows everyone to do whatever they want to him because he’s a softie. He doesn’t want any of this stuff to happen to him, but it does because he just doesn’t know how to do anything else. The final character is a loser by choice, actively choosing not to participate or give a fuck. Even when the big twist happens in his story, he doesn’t really care, he just keeps on doing what comes naturally: giving in to his carnal pleasures.

The Acid House is exceptionally well-written, and I attribute that to Irvine Welsh actually adapting his own stories. The poster advertises “100% PURE UNCUT IRVINE WELSH” insinuating that Trainspotting was a bit watered down. I haven’t read the source material, but no one would ever call the content in The Acid House watered down, and the power of the fucked up events is definitely captivating. I’ve never been one to watch an old man get fucked in the ass by his old lady with a strap-on, but damn if I didn’t enjoy it here. I highly recommend The Acid House to similarly fucked up individuals.

The Acid House was a Reader’s Choice selection from Rodney of Fernby Films.

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