Thursday, October 04, 2012

My Sucky Teen Romance – review

Director: Emily Hagins

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

I wanted to really enjoy this, I really did. Not just because of the young age of the director (Emily Hagins was seventeen when she directed this and her first film, a zombie one I understand, was done when she was twelve), after all not every director improves as they age and some produce their finest work as young, hungry directors.

It was more the setting. The fact that the film was set at a convention tweaked my interest. Galaxy Quest set a standard for convention orientated geek fests and the film Nightlife was a vampire film with a glorious geeky undercurrent. Unfortunately this didn’t quite cut the mustard.

Tina Rodriguez as Gina
It begins in 1958 and we see a guy run from a diner and into his car, observed by biker Vince (Devin Bonnée). A girl, Gina (Tina Rodriguez), leaves the diner and sits on a bench – it is her that the guy has run out on. Vince approaches and turns on the charm. Eventually he asks her to ride with him on his bike. She consents and climbs up behind him… her eyes go red and she develops fangs.

Modern day and every year Kate (Elaine Hurt), Allison (Lauren Lee), Jason (Santiago Dietche) and Mark (Tony Vespe) go to Space Con – a sci-fi convention. This year will be the last before Kate goes away for school and the theme is Vampires Rule. She is looking to have a Con romance. Before the event she goes to a convenience store where clerk Paul (Patrick Delgado) is reading a horror comic – they make a brief connection. Vince comes in, after she has left, to rob the store; though he is intrigued by the idea of the convention. The other clerk, Cindy (Lauren Vunderink), shoots Vince but he heals…

Kate loses her reflection
At the convention are Paul and Cindy, now with permanent fangs and no reflections. They have agreed to avoid human blood until the vampire panel as they hope to discover how to cure themselves. They certainly don’t look out of place, however, given the theme of the Con and the fact that teen vamps are in (Paul does wear a rather lame cape however). Paul meets Kate and there is the blossoming of romance, overwhelmed with teenage awkwardness and the fact that he wants to bite her neck. Unfortunately as he leans in to kiss her they are jostled by a hefty geek (Sam Eidson) pushing her into Paul’s waiting fangs. That night she dreams of blood (and eating Allison) and, when she awakens, her reflection has vanished. Will they find a cure…

Lore-wise we get half and full vampires, a half vampire fully turning when they consume blood. They must kill the one who bit them to revert to human from half vampire. Sunlight gives a half vampire a tingly feeling and will kill a full vampire. Stakes through the heart kill and garlic repulses. They can’t try out the effect of crosses as they don’t have any and whilst Mark tries to make holy water it seems that either he can’t or it doesn’t affect vampires.

The film felt derivative at times. The inclusion of pixel heavy computer graphics as a narrative illustration might have only been sparingly used but felt lifted straight from Scott Pilgrim Versus the World. The film was on a budget so many of the Con signs seemed cheap and nasty (though perhaps that was accurate). I felt the level of geek seemed forced and not convincing, whereas the geek vampire hunters in the aforementioned Nightlife felt like they had just finished a game of dungeons and dragons before stepping in front of the camera.

acting all Edward
There was an attempt to contrast what one might consider traditional movie vampirism with the Twilight phenomenon. Jason suggests that, when they test Kate in the sun, she’ll either burn or sparkle – being half-vampire she does neither. Later Vince calls himself Edward and uses his greaser look to full effect, eventually chowing down on a girl who wears a “the best boyfriends sparkle” t-shirt. A more mature lady throws glitter at people as they walk into the Con. Unfortunately they were uneasy jests that perhaps needed more of an edge to be truly funny.

a moment of gore
The young actors were not terrible but nothing stood out. Some of the more self-conscious moments of the romance felt like the actors weren’t acting and were more down to awkward delivery. To some degree it was a ‘coming of age’ movie, a difficult thing to write, perhaps, when one hasn’t come of age. That said, it didn’t stink, it didn’t stretch too long (it’s around the 75 minute mark) and it had some not too bad moments. Kudos for getting the film made, getting it distributed and making a better effort than some indie flicks… but it is not the best film ever, either, and I think 4 out of 10 is a fair score. I said at the head that not every director improves as they age but I sincerely hope that Emily Hagins builds on what she has.

The imdb page is here.

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