The Acid House


The Acid House Review

The late '90s should be cinematically remembered as the years of the new wave drug movie. In the late '80s and the early '90s, the drug movie was nothing more than a simple comic device... there was no meaning behind the cloud of pot smoke produced by Cheech and Chong. Then, starting in 1996 with the British smash Trainspotting, the drug movie suddenly took on a dual persona of both cautionary tale and comedy of errors. Since Trainspotting, two truly exemplary drug movies have come along... one American and one Scottish. The American is the bizarre Gen-X foray into the surreal, Go. The Scottish is The Acid House.

Although only one part of The Acid House directly deals with LSD, the majority of the movie feels as if it were written and directed the drug. Much like Go gave an accurate portrayal of X, The Acid House gives an accurate portrayal of the Super Mario... um... or so I heard.

The Acid House is derived from three stories in the collection by the same title. The first story concerns a Scottish slacker who has the day from hell and finds himself in a pub, where he meets God and is consequently turned into a fly by him. After being turned into a fly, his day only gets more bizarre. The second story deals with a nice guy who marries a pregnant whore. I will not embellish on this, as the second story is the worst of the three and has absolutely no place in an otherwise trippy and comic film. The third story concerns yet another slacker who, after dropping acid and being struck by lightning at the exact same time an ambulance containing a pregnant woman is struck by lightning, switches places with a newborn baby.

The entire film is a complete trip for Americans to watch, as it is in Scottish (or, rather English in thick Scottish dialect) with English subtitles. If you have spent any time around Brits or Scots from Yorkshire on up, you don't actually need the subtitles. The same applies if you have watched Trainspotting three or four times. However, you find out very quickly that, although unnecessary to the dialogue in and of itself, the subtitles add a special sense of the surreal to the picture. Director Paul McGuigan knows this is not reality, and he wants to show it to you. To also display that this is not reality, McGuigan uses every single trick in the bizarre cinematography book... nature light, slow motion, fast motion, life from a flies' eyes, x-rays... you name it, it is probably used in this film.

For this the man deserves definite credit.

Although there haven't been many films made that are part of the urban surrealist movement (the literary movement that Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh is a member of), this one by far shows the genre the best. Urban Surrealism is taking the bizarre and trippy of life and making it into a form of effortlessly hip cosmic joke. What separates this movement from America's Absurdist movement is simple: Urban Surrealism retains its tendencies towards Beatnik expressionism. This is both the saving grace and the curse of Urban Surrealism... that in the end there are morals (or at least messages) to the stories they portray. The Acid House, in placing three stories (one semi-moral, one completely moral, and one completely absurd), gives a general impression as to what the movement of Urban Surrealism is designed to do.

The sad part of The Acid House is that, in portraying Urban Surrealism so well, it manages to tack 40 useless minutes onto an otherwise perfect movie. The result is a very great film with this one annoying spot in the middle where you just want to leave the theatre.

But stick through the middle story... Ewen Bremner's portrayal of a baby trapped in the body of a grown man is worth it.

See Spud grope.

The Acid House

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Friday 1st January 1999

Distributed by: Zeitgeist Films

Reviews 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 11

IMDB: 6.3 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Boab, as God, Garry Sweeney as Kev, as Evelyn, as Coco Brice