Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Suck – review

Director: Rob Stefaniuk

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

There is a problem with Suck, it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Being a vampire film then clearly it has elements of horror, it also has elements of the musical and it is a comedy. This merging of forms works to a degree but is also the film’s biggest let down. The music is alright but, for the most part, isn’t that catchy. The musical (as in songs telling the story) elements are sparse and primarily it is a (light) rock soundtrack ‘played’ by the featured band. The comedy is black humoured but somehow lightweight and is only amusing rather than being hilarious.

Dimitri Coats as Queeny
The film follows the band the Winners, made up of lead vocalist/guitarist Joey (Rob Stefaniuk, Forever Knight), guitarist Tyler (Paul Anthony, Blade: Trinity), bass player Jennifer (Jessica Paré) and drummer Sam (Mike Lobel). They are going nowhere fast and their manager, Jeff (Dave Foley, Netherbeast Incorporated), has ‘suggested’ they fire him. Jennifer has caught the attention of a vampire called Queeny (Dimitri Coats), however, who came to the bar in the form of a crap bat.

Jennifer turns
As the bartender (Alice Cooper) tries to give Joey some advice and the band decide to sleep in the tour hearse (as they can’t afford a motel), Jennifer goes off with Queeny to his lair. The place is filled with pale skinned vampires and Jennifer is turned in one of the musical moments as Queeny sings to her. The next day Jennifer doesn’t meet the band and they travel to the next gig without her, Joey deciding that roadie Hugo (Chris Ratz) should play bass. They sound awful in warm up but then a very pale Jennifer turns up – she hitched a ride with the support act (who she then ate).

slaying a vampire
We see Eddie Van Helsig (Malcolm McDowell, Tales from the Crypt: The Reluctant Vampire) – despite the imdb entry the name does seem to be Helsig – he stands over a coffin. He is demanding the whereabouts of Queeny from the occupant and staking him. The vampire taunts him about his woman and Eddie retrieves a Winners’ flyer before setting the vampire alight.

Jennifer glows
Meanwhile Susan (Nicole de Boer, also Forever Knight), Joey’s girlfriend, has turned up at the gig. Earlier Joey borrowed money off her and she agreed to turn up as Jennifer was awol (Jennifer was Joey’s girlfriend previously). He has failed to put Susan’s name on the door. On stage Jennifer glows with vampire seduction and the crowd respond to her, and thus the band; causing Susan to throw a bottle at Joey and knocking him out. Whilst he is unconscious they play their best gig ever.

I went to the crossroads...
Joey awakens at a crossroads, Robert Johnson plays and the bartender from the previous gig appears and seems to be tempting him to do a deal with the devil (it becomes apparent, later, that the bartender is also a vampire). Joey finally comes around as the band packs their gear up. Eddie turns up at the stage door looking for Jennifer but she has left hungry – not what the vampire hunter wanted to hear. We then get a flashback to Helsig’s past, using cleverly stitched in footage from O Lucky Man (1973). The band, meanwhile, are back on the road.

she sucks...
Jennifer feels sick and looks like hell – in this vampires can go out in the sun but it makes them ill. After a pointless encounter with a border guard, as they cross from Canada to the US, which seemed set up just to cameo Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson as the guard, they stop at a store. Hugo is picking up road snacks and Jennifer meets store worker Jerry (Danny Smith) who she drinks by straw – not so funny as it has been done many times now. She dominates Hugo and makes him chop up the body, turning him into a Renfield type who does start eating bugs.

bloody mouth
After Jennifer eats foul rocker Beef (Moby) the band discovers what she is and despite sage advice from record producer Victor (Iggy Pop) – “always use a condom and never trust a goddamn vampire” – the rest of the band succumb to temptation. There is a cure, destroy the head vampire – which will restore those he created to their natural state (though that might mean sudden aging and will not resurrect any vampire who had been killed).

Hugo is put upon
Clearly vampirism is a metaphor for drug use and general rock and roll hedonism, the band performing better when abusing substances but losing sight of themselves. Thus the head vampire is a metaphor for the drug dealer. There is also a thread that suggests that without sex and drugs and rock and roll, life is banal and boring, a world of matching sweaters and pottery classes.

on stage flying
The vampires have powers, they are super strong, super fast and can turn into bats and smoke. They can float/fly and mesmerise their audience. However vampire powers are not used extensively and this is one reason why the film doesn’t match its potential. More a vampire than the actual vampires is Jeff, the manager, who ditches them and takes Susan from Joey and then ditches her to go back to the band when they start getting big and worth money. He seems un-phased by the band’s vampirism – happy to indulge their habit as long as the cash comes rolling in.

stop motion
The film combines some stop motion of the hearse, which just seemed like a stylistic choice but in these scenes we got Queeny’s eyes over the landscape and so it wsa reminiscent of scenes in Dracula 1992. The main celebrity cameos worked well (Moby, Cooper and Pop) though, as I mentioned Alex Lifeson’s seemed pointless. McDowell appears to be having a great time. The band members came across well and so what went wrong?

The jokes were amusing only, not laugh out loud funny – though as I say often, comedy is very subjective. Vampirism is often a metaphor but, in this case, it really was playing second fiddle to its metaphoric aspect. The film was sometimes a musical and sometimes a film that featured music and the entire thing was diffuse. Rather than creating classic album covers during its running time perhaps the film could have focused more. That said, it wasn’t unpleasant as a watch, I liked the visual style and the film floats above average. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Bill Dan Courtney said...

I liked this film. I liied the album cover gags in the first part then they stopped doing that suddenly. I reaslyy thought it was going to be goofy but this was a well made little film in most ways.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I just wish they had focused a bit more, they could have made something much more of it

Anthony Hogg said...

You neglected another rocker cameo (understandable, though): Dimitri Coats!

He's the lead singer of Burning Brides. In fact, the flick contains two songs from their latest album, Anhedonia (2008), including the one he sings to Jennifer ("Flesh and Bone") just before he vampirises her.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Anthony, cheers for that... the truth is I didn't know who Dimitri Coats is and wasn't really aware of the Burning Brides.

I also missed out Henry Rollins, not out of badness but out of the fact that his character never really fit into the review!