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[whitespace] Ewen Bremner and Arlene Cockburn
Drop Zone: Ewen Bremner and Arlene Cockburn get intense in 'The Acid House.'

Libido Loss

'The Acid House' drains the raunch and wit from Irvine Welsh

By Michelle Goldberg

LIKE Trainspotting, The Acid House is based on a book by Irvine Welsh, but it has absolutely none of the shaggy-dog wit, hallucinatory propulsion and cinematic dazzle that made the former such a classic. Instead, The Acid House provides the distilled essence of every depressing trend in indie film, all pointless MTV effects, sophomoric scatological gags and jeering contempt. Watching the film, one is reminded less of LSD than of indigestion.

The movie consists of a trio of vignettes, each based on short stories from Welsh's book. In the first bit, a would-be soccer hooligan is kicked off his team, thrown out of the house by his kinky retired parents, dumped by his girlfriend, arrested for destroying a phone booth and beaten senseless by the cops. He meets God in a bar, but the deity has no sympathy for him. Instead he turns him into a fly as punishment for his misspent life. Grotesquerie ensues as he punishes his relations for abandoning him, putting feces in his ex's curry, for example, or watching as his mother buggers his father with a strap-on dildo in a scene that will annihilate your libido for weeks.

The second story concerns a cuckolded husband (Kevin McKidd, Trainspotting's Tommy) whose wife carries on a raunchy affair with the upstairs psychopath. In the last and title piece, a raver (Ewen Bremner, who was hilarious and touching as Spud in Trainspotting) finds his soul switched with that of a newborn. This segment, in which the running gag about how lecherous the baby is, is especially unbearable to watch. The talking infant is a cheap special effect, and the piece manages to be both as corny as Look Who's Talking and as hostile as Happiness.

Though the camera lurches wildly about, it never settles on a person's face, so we never make a connection with any of them. Welsh actually wrote the script, but the glint of sympathy and wicked irony in his prose are wholly absent, as is the frenetic pace. In fact, director Paul McGuigan's most ignominious achievement has been to take stories full of drugs, perversion, violence and revenge and render them insufferably boring.

'The Acid House' (R; 106 min.), directed by Paul McGuigan, written by Irvine Welsh, photographed by Alasdair Walker and starring Ewen Bremner, Stephan McCole and Kevin McKidd, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the September 2-8, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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