“Devil’s Acid” is a wildly entertaining, psychedelic freak-out bedtime story told by an unreliable narrator to mildly supervised young people.
Devil’s Acid begins one night when Dale (Dale Beasley) is sitting at home having a couple beers while watching a baseball game. He’s interrupted by kids who show up in his living room because they can’t get to sleep. It is unclear whether the children are his or if he is babysitting. The first kid who appears says he wants to hear a story: a scary one. What can Dale do? He starts telling him a story.
The tale he comes up with is not really appropriate for the youngster, or even his older brother who shows up a little later. It is about a rich guy named Johnny (Drew Rin Varick) who Dale describes, first and foremost, as “an asshole”.
Johnny holds an annual event he calls the “Haunted Hot Girl Challenge” where a group of people go to a remote location — an abandoned prison — and drop acid. There are some vague rules related to the challenge, but mainly it is just a psychedelic freak-out where the overall point is to enjoy the drug trip. What’s a little harmless fun? The trouble starts when the devil shows up and people begin to die, or, at least, they seem to die. What actually happens is never really clear to the viewer.
Is all the murder and craziness just a group hallucination, or are they really in danger?
Early in the film we run headlong into the really interesting and entertaining aspect of Devil’s Acid.
The viewer isn’t completely certain what is happening because Dale is telling the story, and he seems to be making it up off the top of his head.
The storyteller angle is not a new one. There are a lot of movies and novels that are set up with a narrator telling the tale, or even more specifically, telling a made-up story to children. In these situations, it becomes difficult to tell whether the narrator is telling the truth. Is there a true story that the storyteller is lying about? Or are they telling you the story is made-up when, in fact, it’s true?
In Devil’s Acid, the story is being told about people who are hallucinating from the drugs they are taking, which adds another level of uncertainty. People who are hallucinating don’t know how much of what they are seeing is real.
All this confusion could easily breed chaos and result in a movie you don’t want to watch, but that doesn’t happen in Devil’s Acid for two reasons.
First, there are a lot of highly entertaining performances in the “story” part of the movie. Second, the film moves between the “story” being told by Dale and the evening that Dale himself is having. These short segments — with an increasingly intoxicated narrator who is simultaneously trying to tell the tale and having to stop periodically to clarify what is happening — dramatically improve the pacing of the film.
They also help with a scene or two that might have been confusing in the “story” part, so using Dale to clear things up is an excellent plot device that does not seem expository. Watching Dale pause to explain something weird in the plot to the kids is fun and doesn’t slow the film down at all.
So, what is actually happening in the story?
Johnny, the asshole, is a rich guy with a household staff that doesn’t like him because he is demanding and abusive. Every year, Johnny hosts the aforementioned night of debauchery. During this year’s event, participants spin a gun on a table marked with different places in the abandoned prison where the challenge is being held.
Each participant then has to go to whichever place is selected and stay there overnight. They also have to take a hit of LSD Johnny brought with him. If you leave or quit while Johnny tries to freak you out all night, you lose. But what can you win? Johnny brought a big bag of money with him, leaving the viewer to presume that’s the prize. What if more than one person stays the entire night? Who knows? The movie is not strong on specific details about the rules.
Johnny invited five people to his event, including Aiesha (Betty Jeune), one of the members of the household staff. The other guests include Johnny’s brother, Luke (Eric Gibson), Luke’s girlfriend, Jennifer (Jessica Lynn Parsons), and two women Johnny has previous acquaintances with, Delilah (played by twins Kim and Misty Ormiston) and Brittany (Ashley Dulaney).
Everything starts out fine when four of the guests take their blotter and head off to different parts of the prison. Aiesha is the only one left who hasn’t started, and she decides to grab the gun and take Johnny’s money. A twist or two later, Aiesha is accidentally shot by Johnny, who then falls down and knocks himself out. After that, things really get strange. But what actually happens is something of a moving target due to the two levels of unreliability surrounding the “story” being told.
You’ll have to watch it yourself for the ups and downs. I can tell you this much: there is a moral to the story, and it is the punchline to a joke.
Devil’s Acid is a lot of fun.
It is clearly a tongue-in-cheek enterprise that is cleverly constructed and effectively executed. Stand-out performances by Ashley Dulaney and Dale Beasley raise the level of this independent horror comedy up a notch. The film is not particularly gory or grotesque, and special effects are minimal.
The viewer’s enjoyment, then, comes from the performances of the actors and the off-beat way in which the story is told.