“Reach for the sky, and not that apple pie!” So proclaims John Flexi (Branden Wilbarger), the fitness instructor inhabiting writer-director Sam Fox’s Bad Acid, a neon-drenched nightmare inspired by the excesses of the 1980s consumer culture. The instructor is inside an old box TV, yet he’s seemingly talking directly to fitness enthusiast Sheila (Kate Hollowell) as she gets pumped up on a can of Tab mixed with some sort of psychoactive poison. She dons her pink tights like a soldier getting ready for battle and relishes being a part of the suggestive assortments of exercises (mostly in the form of hip gyrations) from Flexi’s video before she gets sucked into his world.
“…relishes being a part of the suggestive assortments of exercises from Flexi’s video before she gets sucked into his world.”
This strange short is bursting with energy and complete devotion to a visually arresting aesthetic akin to the interior of a Barbie doll’s box. It’s quick enough to watch a few times in succession, so I did. Each time I was taken aback by how infectious the score and performances managed to be. Hollowell is electric as the enthusiastic Sheila, and Wilbarger is simply bonkers in his role as the hyperactive instructor in this psychedelic world of hairspray and synthesizers. I dare anyone to match them on a dance floor because Richard Simmons has nothing on these two.
Even the best short films can be forgettable because of their transience. But if we’re being honest, Bad Acid remains wedged in one’s brain for much longer than expected. That’s a credit to Fox and the twisted atmosphere that he creates. I was left wishing that I had my own pair of uncomfortable tights, so this could have been a participatory exercise. It’s short and undeniably silly, but one gets the sense that this wtf story certainly won’t go the way of Tab.