You’ve got to hand it to the French: when they go in, they go in raw.
Chock it up to a haughty film critic quirk, but there’s something about French cinema that has always drawn me. It takes more risks. It portrays things both as they are, but with a sort of surreal style simultaneously. Gore, nudity, anything that would have an American censor clutching their pearls…the French say “Go for it!” More than that, French film historically offers sincere and very human performances. That’s what makes “Acid” work.
In less than 20 minutes, “Acid” did more than some films do with millions of dollars and the same amount of hours as “Star Wars.” THAT makes it a damn good film.
Director Just Philippot does a hell of a job directing the only short film that has ever stressed me out so much that I chewed all of my nails off in its short 18-minute runtime. In “Acid,” a family desperately tries to escape a looming danger: a storm cloud that rains deadly acid. A novel concept that I instantly adored.
From the get-go, I’m talking less than two minutes in, “Acid” GOES THERE! Brutal. Merciless. Screaming. DEATH. Holy shit! It is perhaps the darkest beginning note in recent memory and I am HERE FOR IT!
There’s no time for exposition, there’s no time for establishing a world. Like our leading family, we’ve got to get moving. This creates this beautiful tension and urgency that carries you through the entire film. “Acid” is one big adrenaline rush.
Now, with a villain like an acid rain cloud, you’re probably envisioning all the nasty gore that could be drummed up. It’s definitely there, but it’s never the focus, which makes “Acid” all the more terrifying. Instead of showing us the very worst, you get this slow burn of just how painful and agonizing this fate is. “Acid” follows the tradition of film greats like “JAWS” by letting your imagination do most of the heavy lifting. Instead of going for gratuitous shots of carnage, the lens looks away. Distant screams and bodies obscured partially from our gaze tell us more than any gross close-up ever could.
Dread is the name of the game. “Acid” is the undisputed champ.
What brings “Acid” together into a beautifully packaged product are solid performances and subtle storytelling. Everything is dipped in this gritty realism. Most of the dialogue is inane and wandering, a distraction. (Go see it if you want in on why that’s important. No spoilers!) Nothing in this film is spoon-fed to you and that’s GOOD. The foundation of “Acid” is panic and uncertainty. Good filmmaking is when a person understands your intent. Great filmmaking is when your viewer not only understands but feels it through every element.
It’s true what they say, that big things can come in small packages. “Acid” packed more emotion into 20 minutes than anything else I’ve seen at the Fest, to this point. Tres bonne.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.