With your heyday far behind you, how far would you go to relive your glory days? The fleeting nature of fame comes under the microscope in Bad Acid, a darkly amusing and satisfyingly sinister be-careful-what-you-wish-for parable from first-time writer-director David Chaudoir, where a washed-up hypnotist’s desperation to return to the top drives him to tangle with forces he doesn’t truly understand.
Visually engaging from the off, Bad Acid opens on a dingy pub, where we’re shown Marvin Maskelyn (Tristan Beint, Doctors) performing his hypnotist act to a couple of small, apathetic audiences. Chaudoir and Beint work nicely in tandem to sell Marvin’s frustration in these scenes, with some well-placed closeups accentuating the subtle flashes of nerves flickering across his face as his act goes south and the crowd dissolves into fits of laughter. It’s inherently sympathetic stuff, and as we veer into the 18-minute short’s opening credits, a collection of neatly-constructed photos give glimpses into Marvin’s better days. Given the presence of the likes of Tony Blair and The Spice Girls, it’s fair to assume that this would have been around the mid to late 90s, and as Bad Acid transitions into his dilapidated present-day home, it’s relayed all the background we need in just a couple of minutes.
An incidental scene where Marvin pays a visit to a mysterious friend (Paul Croft) and acquires a “17th century Babylonian lamp” shows Chaudoir’s aptitude for saying a lot with very little. When he finds out that the lamp previously belonged to the now-dead frontman of metal band Satan’s Claw, he rants, with more than a hint of undue bitterness, about how the singer “had one hit and he made a bloody fortune”. Given his own fade from public view, it’s a telling and subtle indicator of the kind of man we’re dealing with here. He’s desperate to return to what may have been a deservedly brief time in the spotlight, but probably wouldn’t think twice about dismissing others trying to do the same as hacks. It offers more depth than is really necessary for the medium, and the rounding out of the character is a refreshing and effective choice.
After an enjoyably surreal vision, Marvin makes his wish for restored fame, and Bad Acid confidently begins its venture into darker territory. What follows, while best left unexamined in close detail here, darkens the tone considerably with some unexpected plot beats, and as the story itself hurtles towards its impressively dark conclusion, the film succeeds on a combination of visual artistry, assured performances and confident storytelling . Exciting stuff.
Watch the trailer for Bad Acid here.