THE ACID HOUSE
This Scots-English co-production is written by Irvine Welsh and is an anthology where he adapts three short stories from his title collection The Acid House (1994). The film is clearly designed to mimic the style of Trainspotting sporting several of its cast members (Ewen Bremner Trainspottings Spud and Kevin McKidd), a similar techno soundtrack and even the same affected drug induced visual style and freeze-frame introductions of the characters.
Irvine Welshs work tends to centre around common themes Glaswegian unemployed and solo mothers, Scottish pissheads, soccer and soccer hooliganism, drugs, ravers and E-freaks and all written in an incisive mimicry of Scottish accent. Even the three stories here tend to fall to a commonality of theme. Both the fantastic stories the first and the third one are essential identity exchange stories in the first, God turns a down-on-his-luck loser into a fly for his failure to stand up for himself; in the third, an acid head swaps places with a newborn baby. On a less inviting note is the commonality of Irvine Welshs characters both the men in the first and second segments are passive victims and the episodes seem constructed as bitter tales about how hard-done by by life they are. The overriding tone of self-victimisation and bitterness is unappealing and in particular the downbeat ending that the second episode resigns itself to after hanging on a point where it seems Kevin McKidd might finally stand up for himself makes you want to scream.
That said, all of the stories are equally enjoyable there are times they are positively hysterical. The film has a crude and loud aggressiveness that is determined to get in your face. What takes you back is that the film holds no punches it is filled with vomitings, anal sex scenes, masturbating babies and a rather hysterical piece where the fly-transformed hero comes upon his mother anally rogering his father with a strap-on dildo and making him beg her to defecate in his mouth. (This latter episode is also one that premiered on British tv too!).
With any anthology film, you always end up comparing each episode to the other. Here it is hard to pick the best. The two fantasy episodes, the first and third, do seem dominated by an adolescent humour albeit very funny a loser getting revenge on those who treated him badly by defecating in their food as a fly; a man and a baby changing places where the predominant riff of humour seems to play on breast-feeding. The strongest story is probably the middle episode, which is dominated by an electrifying live wire performance from Gary McCormack as the neighbour who moves in on Kevin McKidds wife. However, the problem with the stories is that Irvine Welsh sets them up well a guy transformed into a fly, a man and a baby change places but beyond the basic premise, they lack a dramatic structure. Welsh never pushes them to punchlines anthology stories usually end on a pithy comeuppance or a sharp twist ending but the stories here all peter out to non-endings.
The funniest thing about the film (at least in the print I saw) was that the Scottish accent was so incomprehensible for American audiences that all the dialogue had to be subtitled.
Scottish director Paul McGuigan has made a number of other films including Wicker Park (2004) and Lucky Number Slevin (2006). McGuigan subsequently returned to genre material to make the well worthwhile psychic powers film Push (2009) and Victor Frankenstein (2015), a further version of the Mary Shelley story.