or multi-story films are almost always a problem. Though
it's perfectly possible to create a set of identifiable
characters and set up a situation in which they can interact
in just thirty minutes, by the time you've done so you're
often left with little room to take them anywhere, at
least to the level we have come to expect from feature
films. It's almost inevitably a hit and miss affair, with
even the best multi-story films – Dead of Night comes to mind – rarely scoring on every tale. Amicus
made a career out of portmanteau horror pictures such
as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and
the superb Tales From the Crypt (someone, please, put this on DVD), but their output was
always erratic. That, though, is the nature of the medium.
It has also been argued, though, that with multiple stories on offer, if one isn't to your taste then one of
the others probably will be, and this is the comment most
frequently applied to Irvine Welsh's adaptation of three
of his own short stories from his book The Acid House.
three tales tell of luckless losers, but all are played
out with a surrealistic edge. The Granton Star
Cause sees young Boab lose his job, his girlfriend
and his place on the local football team, only to meet
God in a pub and be given a most peculiar opportunity
to enact his revenge on those he believes have wronged
him. A Soft Touch observes put-upon
Johnny as he loses his girlfriend and dignity to the semi-psychotic
Larry, who moves in upstairs and forces him to face, though
not necessarily deal with, his own personality failings. The final story, The Acid House, has child-hating, pill-popping
Coco take one trip too many and get hit
by lightning, which prompts him to exchanges bodies with a new-born baby.
some the three short films here are little more
than cinematic illustrations of the original stories, providing
visuals for those unable to create them in their own minds.
In some ways it's hard to dispute that, as none of the tales
teach us anything new or even provide a fresh take familiar situations. But somehow the film as a whole still manages
to deliver, through acute observation, smart writing, a
real ear for street language, dedicated performances and
direction canny enough – despite the occasional (though
somethings appropriate) drift into pop video visuals – to
make you want to see McGuigan get his teeth into a really
decent feature script (and his next film, Gangster
No. 1, came close). Everyone I've spoken to and
every review I've read has a preferred story, usually the
first or the last, most being dismissive of the middle story,
A Soft Touch, but to a degree, at least, I'm prepared to throw my weight behind it. All three stories have their individual
strengths and weaknesses, but there's something so grimly,
hopelessly, depressingly real about the characters and their
plight in this middle segment that I can't help empathising,
and a couple of the dialogue lines from that story – in
particular the one that heads this review – have become
eternal catch phrases at my place of work. I have to admit,
though, it was the third story, The Acid House,
that went down best with our cinema audience.
clean, bright and very watchable transfer, not exactly reference
quality but this is a grittily shot film that has little
in the way of primary colours. As expected for a recent
work, the print used is completely free of scratches and
dust. Pleasingly, there is little sign of artifacting. The
picture is also enhanced for 16:9 TVs.
sound is clear, well-mixed but Dolby 2.0 only, no 5.1 track.
A lot of source music is used in the film and it sounds
good, but a 5.1 mix would have been nice, and no doubt would
have given the final sequence a real aural wallop. The hallucinogenic
story intros have the best sound, which is a bit of a surprise.
much. There is a Photo Gallery,
but this is of little interest and after one look a revisit
is unlikely. More surprising, especially for a UK region
2 disk, is the complete lack of subtitles. This could be
especially problematic for those not familiar with Scottish
dialects, as the accents are very thick at times and non-British
viewers are likely to have trouble here – there are a couple
of moments moments in A Soft Touch when
even I was struggling.
pulled in a good audience when we screened it and went down
well. Successive viewings have emphasised its weaknesses
rather than confirmed its strengths, but there is still
much in the script, performances and handling to enjoy (though
some would say appreciate – it's not exactly a laugh a minute).
This was an early Film Four release and bereft of extras
and a boffo sound mix, but the upside is that it can now
be picked up very cheaply and still beats any VHS copy into