Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #562
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: July 2016
Sub-Genre: Short Film
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Running Time: 17 minutes
Director: David Chaudoir
Producer: Sukey Richardson
Screenplay: David Chaudoir
Visual Effects: David Chaudoir
Cinematography: Andy Horner
Score: Pete Diggens
Editing: Tom Walker
Stars: Tristan Beint, Madeleine Bowyer, Tiffany Haynes, Paul Croft, Simon Purdey, William Kempsell, Tom Walker, Jules Brown, Maddy Chaudoir
Suggested Audio Jukebox
 The Garden Of Eden “The Garden Of Eden (Serpent In The Garden Mix)”
 Tangerine Dream “Rubycon”
 Pete Diggens “Act”
 Pete Diggens “Bad Acid”
I happen to know a thing or two about bad acid. I first took LSD at the age of sixteen and, over the course of one crazy night, built a rapport with the drug which lasted several years. Every weekend, I would score my tab, and scuttle off to my controlled environment to trip the night away with my co-pilots. Alas, you are never destined to recapture the intensity of that first experience, as your mind soon becomes clued up on the effects and will never again open up in quite the same manner, regardless of how many tabs you stuff down your throat. That said, of all the drugs I’ve taken over the course of my lifetime, it’s acid that I share the most memories with.
Of course, there is such a thing as bad acid, and I’m not speaking of a blank blotter either. Numerous factors can trigger one such experience, from lack of experience to chosen locale, or any underlying tension prior to attaching those rocket packs. How these bogus trips play out depends very much on the user and, where cleanliness was so close to godliness to me, LSD found itself the perfect vantage from which to play its cruel tricks. Every time I indulged, my mind convinced me that I smelled ghastly, to the point where I could no longer partake socially. Worse still, this psychosis eventually began to bleed into everyday life, and I knew only too well that our five-year romance was doomed to draw to a close. And so it did.
Nowadays, LSD is a great deal harder to come by. Until recently, you could actually purchase it legally from the UK over the internet, and there’s something immensely satisfying about having Royal Mail deliver your narcotics at dawn’s early light. Dropping again after a twenty-year hiatus was a real eye-opener and not nearly as ominous an experience as I had been expecting as I was far more primed for its suggestion. Having proved to myself that any paranoia was all in my mind, I conquered my demon, and feel that this chapter in my life is now closed. So it was ironic that David Chaudoir’s Bad Acid materialized seemingly out of thin air soon afterwards. Needless to say I was powerless to resist its allure and, having observed what his resident tripper has to contend with first hand, I reckon I made the right decision y’know.
Once renowned shaman of the screen, washed-up hypnotist Marvin Maskelyn (Tristan Beint) is now little more than a novelty act. The days of rubbing shoulders with celebrities are way in his slipstream and his act is now reserved for stuffy working man’s clubs and bare-bones audiences. This, in itself, is a disheartening state of affairs but, to smear additional salt over the slug’s sunburn, they appear to have found grounds for heckling.
While Marvin gives it his all, there can be no disguising the desolate look in his eyes, and we can see just how sharply it needles him that he’s had to resort to this. We join Marvin during one such botched hypnosis and instantly feel that twinge. There comes a time in the life on any prize thoroughbred when it has to accept that this particular twisted ankle isn’t likely to be patched up. With no one prepared to take that shot or throw him a bone and go along with his sham, he is prepared to do pretty much anything.
Having had his most esteemed prop, his genie lamp, permanently decommissioned, Marvin pays a visit to his friend Milton (Paul Croft), who just so happens to run a dusty emporium for antiques and similarly ornate curiosities. If you’ve ever had the dubious pleasure of Kevin Connor’s delightful 1974 anthology From Beyond the Grave, then you should have a fair idea where things are headed.
To Marvin’s great enchantment, the proprietor happens to have one such arcane lamp knocking about in his wares, of 17th century Babylon origins no less. Since then this puzzling trinket has traveled far and wide and its previous keeper was a rock musician who had vested interest in matters of the occult. By this point, Marvin is fast running out of things to lose by taking a punt, so he does precisely that and strikes himself a deal before the shutter drops.
Thrilled with his new acquisition, this gift seems intent on keeping on giving, and he locates a stockpile of LSD blotters in a hidden compartment at the underside of the Pandora’s Box said lamp was sold in. There seems no harm or foul in Marvin partaking in some light hallucinogens so he tears one off the strip, knocks it back, waits for the unusual feeling of having something lodged in his larynx to pass, and attaches that rocket pack.
Right on cue, things begin to get a little more “intense”, colors become acute, his sense of self vastly accelerated, and sinister shrouded figures drop by unannounced to jog his memory on the exclusive benefits this mysterious lamp affords. Putting two and two together when tripping bollocks is an ill-advised endeavor at best but business is business and papa would appear to have himself something of a new bag so to hell with it right? Oh lordy Marvin.
As projected, the lamp does add something of a je ne sais pas to his act, although I’m not altogether sure this particularly audience is quite ready for the brand of hypnosis he has in mind. To be fair, he’s as much a passenger as the poor sap in the chair. While Marvin is watching on bemused, they’re having their soul force steadily extracted by a dastardly djinni who makes up for what he lacks in pantaloons and silken head-gear with cloven hooves and perpetual blackness. But there’s no such thing as bad press apparently and it just feels good to be back on the upside once more.
You know what they say about power don’t you? Pure head cheese I hear. Indeed it is as Marvin finds himself three rubs away from wishing he hadn’t and can’t seem to see the bank for the green sheets. Even his long-suffering assistant Amanda (Madeleine Bowyer) can only watch on fretfully and pray that a good night’s sleep will steady the ship.
British audiences may discern shades of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights in Bad Acid, particularly given the setting and thick regional dialect, while anyone familiar with the mockumentary styling of Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant’s The Office will undoubtedly see a little David Brent in our leading man. We’re desperate not to like him, cringe as he says precisely the wrong thing increasingly on cue, and attempt to hold him in contempt for these crimes.
But it is fruitless and Beint’s all-in turn wins us over effortlessly from the very first simsalabim. Support is no less at home and both Bowyer and Croft give hugely creditable accounts of themselves; but this is Marvin’s magic show dagnabbit and he really could have no finer representation than Beint.
Chaudoir’s wry delight would slot beautifully into a five-piece horror anthology and, indeed, his motivation for Bad Acid stems back to the heyday of Amicus. However, just like the lamp itself, there is far more here than initially meets the eye. After our 17-minute trip has concluded and we’ve prepared ourselves for the inevitable come down, it keeps on flashing back and that is as telltale a sign as they come of a story not yet fully told.
It’s a no-brainer if you ask me, Andy Horner’s cinematography captures both the awkward awe of the trip and stark shadows bracing us every time the lights dim, while Pete Diggens lavishes our second sense with a cunningly cryptic score evocative of the lamp’s origins.
As for our director, well I’d say he’s well under starter’s orders, having 25 years experience in the field of broadcast and associated arts. Alongside award-winning promotionals for The Walking Dead and The Wire, his credits include music videos for such hot properties as Athlete and Starsailor. He has this baby on lockdown in that devilish frontal lobe of his right now and whatever intelligence he has gleaned from past endeavors has been incalculable in delivering him to the place he’s at currently – positively primed for the big performance. Bad Acid is every bit as polished as Marvin’s rambunctious relic and, the all-important kicker is, we’re a mere three rubs from having some damn wishes granted. Can I get an abracadabra? Too seventies? Don’t blame me, I’m just on warm-up.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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