Short films are often a mysterious breed. Whilst the shorter running time provides a sense of freedom to explore ideas, it also carries the challenge of captivating an audience and telling a story in a condensed time frame. In Bad Acid, writer and director David Chaudoir, has succeeded in achieving both of these goals; creating a darkly entertaining tale in under a mere twenty minutes.
Meet Marvin Maskelyn, a TV hypnotist that has fallen out of favour and the limelight. He eeks a living from local clubs and pubs with an act that fails to impress. After a particularly bad night in which he breaks his genie's lamp, he visits a friend who gives him an antique replacement. Unfortunately, not only does it contain hallucinogenic drugs, but also some seriously evil spirits and occult weirdness. After helping himself to the treat left inside the lamp, Marvin trips out with visions of regaining his fame and disturbing flashes of a dark sinister being and a woman whose hands are drenched in blood. This twisted vision strikes a fantastic contrast with the normality of Marvin's life and draws you deeper inside his world.
From the outset, the visual style of the film is strongly established; odd angles, floating sensations and deep colours work together to create a sensation of a familiar, yet disturbed reality. By creating a sense of recognisable comfort, we buy in to Marvin’s world with ease, whilst at the back of our minds knowing that something unsettling is just around the corner. Certain shots add a surreal, twisted take on reality; such as the lamp being crushed in to the carpet and a particularly lovely bridge between a woman screaming and Marvin exhaling cigarette smoke. However, it is not a case of style over substance, as the effects are carefully used to enhance the story rather than to substitute it.
After Marvin’s strange, hallucinatory experience, he encounters the woman from his vision and the film cleverly paces itself towards its climax. In the short time available, every moment serves a purpose and you can feel the wealth of material and different directions the story could have taken. By keeping the storytelling tight, Chaudoir has created a complete and fully realised short, whilst allowing you to see the potential of a larger story waiting in the wings. Bad Acid could easily be a fantastic prologue to a longer story.
The care and time that has gone in to making the film is clear and it shines in every well produced element. The sound adds a depth that elevates the viewing experience and heightens the drama. The performances pitch just the right note, combining fear with a sense of British wit. Tristan Beint brings Marvin to life in such a believable manner, he is immediately both a recognisable and intriguing character. To achieve this almost instantly and create a character with depth, is no mean feat. Madeleine Bowyer (as Marvin’s assistant) equally shines, as she did in Chaudoir’s previous short Adonis and Aphrodite. Both performances contribute to create what feels like a quintessentially British film, which in itself is a wonderful thing to watch.
Much like his previous short, Chaudoir again shows his skill at engaging the viewer and making them fill in the blanks of what they’re seeing, rather than spoon feeding everything to a passive audience. Bad Acid is a film that casts a spell over you and one that would fit perfectly in to a late night bill of strange short tales. The bottom line is this; if you like your storytelling dark, with splashes of dry humour, then you should seek out Bad Acid as it continues to weave its way through the festival circuit.
Check out Bad Acid online
Writer & Director: David Chaudoir
Cast: Tristan Beint, Madeleine Bowyer, William Kempsell, Paul Croft, Tiffany Hayes
Watch the trailer for a taster: