Where the filmmaker goes way wrong is the screenplay, as it is a watered-down photocopy of the superior short. By removing the premise of dropping acid at a concert and getting busted by your parents, Waldo, in her feature-length debut, takes away all the aspects that are relatable across a wide spectrum. Replacing that set-up with a feature about applying to elite colleges but resisting the path is not a relatable subject except to a narrow sector of privileged kids, and it isn’t enjoyable.
Of course, proper plotting can make anything interesting, with conflicts and twists to build up sympathy. Unfortunately, Waldo does none of this throughout Acid Test. Things just happen; there is no momentum built at all. The electric visual excitement of the short, with its crafty angles and sly details, is replaced by something that looks and plays like a bad afterschool special. Flat medium shots and standard angle left and angle right for dialogue, over and over because the boring filler parts of the feature demand it. Also, for a movie summoning the haywire early 90s, nobody is having any real fun with the art direction or costumes. Plus, the constant clips of the 1992 presidential election add nothing to the feel or themes.
“…hits you like a downed power line…”
The acid effects are misused to the point of redundancy. The short version may have the best visual presentation of tripping presented in cinema. It is that good. Here, the effects go overboard and end up just looking like a standard montage. Also, you are starved for them for an entire endless middle section of college application hell. For a Riot Grrl movie about acid, there is not much Riot Grrl or acid in it. I think the mistake in conception was believing that the 15 minutes of magic that the short delivered needed to be spread out over 103 minutes.
It is evident when you look at the short that Waldo is a talented director, and her writing is pinpoint perfect. However, some folks who are geniuses at the short form fall apart when going feature-length; just look at Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Waldo really needed a collaborator on the script who could take her ideas and put them into a proper dramatic arc. But, this pale excuse for a story is lifeless and spiritless with the depth of asphalt. It would be great if the filmmaker could try again, as the dosed world of Trip Grrl is a story that deserves to be told. As it is, this feature-length version of Acid Test is bunk. It’s little tabs of nothing that barely have any strychnine clinging to the paper.
"…the dosed world of Trip Grrl is a story that deserves to be told."