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United Kingdom 1998
Directed by
Paul McGuigan
118 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Acid House

The UK has a truly unique lumpen culture that just hovers above some kind of sub-civilized swamp. It appears in film in two ways. One is the Ken Loach/Mike Leigh tradition of humanist empathy, the other is a kind of exploitational cinema that Trainspotting (1996) kicked off so well. The Acid House belongs to the latter stream, indeed both films are scripted by Irvine Welsh from his own books. Unfortunately whilst Danny Boyle managed to make his 1996 film entertaining, debut director Paul McGuigan gives us no relief from the abusive, foul-mouthed tawdriness that constitutes the lives of this film's hopeless characters. If there weren’t so much truth in what is depicted here this would be funny in its own anti-social way but there is no satisfaction in laughing at humanity in its most degraded form.

Welsh is a talented writer and his nihilist humour crackles with drug-demented energy. This is best seen in the first of the three separate stories that constitute the film - 'The Granton Star Cause' in which a young soccer-playing oick sees his whole world go down the toilet before God teaches him a lesson by turning him into a house fly.

The second story, 'A Soft Touch', takes a more vicious turn but is in its own frightening way only too believable. The third and titular story has Ewen Bremner, who has made a tidy career of this kind of role, including a memorable appearance in Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) as well as playing the hapless Spud in Trainspotting, as a gormless Geordie "top boy" who blows his mind from taking some kind of hallucinogen with the street name of “Super Mario” and manages to get himself incarnated as the potty-mouthed baby of a yuppie couple. This latter is an over-extended and unoriginal joke that is a waste of the talents of all concerned, leaving a gaping hole in what might have otherwise been, if not a film for a mainstream audience, then one which effectively carried off its own grubby sub-cultural style.




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