HonkWatch #020: The Acid House

HonkWatch #020: The Acid HouseWatched The Acid House the other night. It’s a portmanteau adaptation of three stories from Irvine Welsh’s 1994 collection of short stories (and one novella), directed by Paul McGuigan, who subsequently did Gangster No.1.

It’s also not really very good. It’s got the visual glow that Trainspotting had, but not much beyond that. There’s some (and I mean some) nice performances, some interesting camera work, but overall it feels too superficial. The accents are mostly terrible, there’s little fluency with Welsh’s words, and besides which, the book the three films in this collection are taken from is one of Welsh’s slightest, with the least to say. So what’s the point?

The three stories are also rather too varied, and nothing really connects them. Aside from the stylistic continuity – and Maurice Roëves, who plays an essentially different character in each segment – it doesn’t really hold together as a film. It’s like watching three one-off TV dramas in one go. The first one is also the weakest, which doesn’t really bode well – ‘The Granton Star Cause’, about a lazy no-hoper, Boab, who is dropped from his football team, thrown out by his parents, dropped by his girlfriend, sacked by his boss and turned into a fly by god, all in one day. It plays like a film student’s first film with working actors, and seems woefully uncommitted. Too broad to be taken straight, not broad enough to be funny. The fly effects are moderately diverting. Jenny McCrindle, as Boab’s (ex) girlfriend Evelyn takes her top off, for no earthly reason, except maybe to get you to keep watching, even though it’s so mediocre, or less than mediocre. Stephen McCole – who I remember being so good in Peter Mullan’s Orphans – is awful as the feckless Boab. Basic visual elements are flubbed (the strap-on up Boab’s dad’s arse is barely visible, for instance). Very disappointing. But there is a brief HonkWatch-worthy moment, when Evelyn and her new boyfriend Tambo start coughing lumps after eating cold curry Boab’s laced with dogshit.

Then there’s the best, or at least the most interesting, segment, ‘A Soft Touch’. In it Kevin McKidd is cuckolded husband Johnny, whose new upstairs neighbour Larry (Garry McCormack), having identified how weak-willed he is, ends up stealing not just his wife but also his electricity, his TV and his dignity. Both turn in good performances, and Michelle Gomez as the skanky Catriona is excellent. But it’s so different in tone to the first piece, you wonder why it’s been lumped in with it.

Then there’s the closing segment, ‘The Acid House’ itself. In it Ewen Bremner is a slightly less sappy version of Spud, the raver/casual Coco, who drops some acid, gets struck by lightning, and finds his soul swapped with that of a baby born just as the ambulance its pregnant mother is giving birth in is also struck by lightning. Cue Look Who’s Talking-type adult-voice-of-baby stuff, ‘with hilarious results’. Well, not really hilarious. Bremner’s okay, as is Arlene Cockburn as his girlfriend. Jemma Redgrave as the middle class mum landed with a foul-mouthed bairn seems uncomfortable. There’s a stunt breast for the (one hopes deliberately) unconvincing baby puppet to suck on. And talking of tits, Martin Clunes plays a foppish new age dad.

The end.

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