The Acid House (1998)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Urban Comedy, Coming-of-Age, Sex Comedy  |   Release Date - Aug 6, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although it's fuelled by the same caustic imagination as Trainspotting, this misanthropic anthology is a very different sort of film from that cautiously optimistic art-house hit. Unfortunately, although it's certainly worth watching, it's also an inferior effort. Visually, The Acid House pops in all the right places, investing the slums of Edinburgh with manic color and rock & roll pizazz. BBC documentarian Paul McGuigan makes a smooth transition to fiction, staging soccer matches, meetings with God, dead-end lives, and apocalyptic drug trips with equal inventiveness. The performances, too, are quite fine, especially Stephen McCole as a put-upon young layabout, Michelle Gomez as a bitter and tarty young mum, and Jemma Redgrave as a marriage-obsessed raver. The film's problem, then, is its script, which piles on so many squalid episodes and so much willful transgression that viewers may well find their patience exhausted. A surly, hard-drinking God, a psychotic stud, and an out-there drug trip are fine and dandy, but a pair of S&M pensioners and a malformed, monstrously horny infant tip the scales a bit too far. All is not unrelentingly bleak, but even when the film's plots lighten up, the tone remains mean-spirited and self-satisfied. Welsh's work is always a study in intensity, but without a breather between laps, The Acid House becomes an endurance test.