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STUDIO: E1 Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
• Making-of Documentary
• Audio commentary with writer/director and cinematographer
• Burning Brides “Flesh and Bone” Music Video
Bram Stoker’s Bon Jovi
Starring Rob Stefaniuk, Jessica Pare, Dave Foley, Moby, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Dimitri Coats, Alex Lifeson, Alice Cooper, Malcolm McDowell
Written and directed by Rob Stefaniuk
A struggling, Canadian rock band tours the country searching for success when their bassist Jennifer (Pare) gets bitten by a vampire. At first this is a major nuisance, but it ends up being the one thing that just might help them make the big time. But, at what cost?
Johnny Depp’s original take on the Mad Hatter was a bit too dark for latter-day Burton.
For a horror-musical about a vampiric rock band starring a bunch of no-names and a slew of aging rock legends, Suck should’ve, by all accounts, sucked. But it didn’t. By some mad stroke of genius – or luck (probably both) – Suck works on every single level, in ways that I never thought possible going in.
First off, it’s a rock-musical horror comedy. Now, the minute you bring in more than a couple genres you’re playing with fire; but, if one of those genres involves the actors breaking into song at every major plot point, well, your core audience gets extremely small even if you can pull it off. Throw in vampires — which have pretty much been all but ruined with that shimmering nonsense permeating pop culture — a lack of a single movie star, and a budget most likely spent on getting all of those random musical icons to appear in a movie like that, and you have all the makings of pure cinematic oblivion. The kind of crap that gets dropped straight to DVD every day that treats those of us who might find a horror musical comedy totally up our alley as if we don’t know a thing about movies and don’t expect a single intelligible moment during our 90 minutes of escapism. But writer/director/star Rob Stefaniuk melds all of these genres together, using some sort of cinematic alchemy, into an amalgam of total fun.
“So now you’re anorexic? You know that heroin chic is out of style, right?”
“I’m not eating because I’m a vampire. I don’t need food anymore.”
“Cool. Means more money for the beer fund.”
I’m admittedly not much of a musical guy. I abhor the fact that Chicago won Best Picture (yes, I know it’s been almost a decade, but it still bothers me), although I do have a soft spot for Footloose. Basically I can accept when characters have montages to diagetic music, but not when they actually break into song on a street corner and no one around them finds it odd — or even joins them in perfect unison. Suck smartly builds the musical moments into the plot, making it even more organic: the main characters are in the band The Winners, a struggling Canadian rock quartet (think Silversun Pickups-meets-Dracula) on tour through southeastern Canada, playing small clubs and bars. With a new show every night, the story beats have plenty of opportunities to be accentuated with a tune. And, surprisingly enough, they’re not bad songs at all. I was sold almost immediately, in the opening sequence where Jennifer – the D’Arcy of the outfit – locks eyes with a decidedly creepy, truly vampiric-looking creature of the night, goes home with him, and promptly joins the ranks of the once-able-to-get-a-tan in a solid scene where Jennifer and the is-he-a-rock-star-or-is-he-a-full-on-vampire each sit on a couch spinning around as the rock vampire sings a brooding rocker that fills the soundtrack. It’s creepy and fun and totally works even though just describing a metal-dude with fangs and freaky contact lenses lip syncing sounds like the cheesiest crap imaginable. Somehow, it’s not. Somehow, it just rocks.
Mixing horror and comedy can be total gold — just look at Shaun of the Dead. And each film will find its own balance of laughs and scares, just so long as they each are handled honestly. Shaun of the Dead worked because it was a real zombie flick and a real comedy, not just one with a hint of the other. Same with Suck: Stefaniuk populates the flick with classic vampire lore — they can turn into fog, cast no reflections, deathly allergic to wooden stakes to the heart — making it a bona fide vampire movie mixed with a deadpan (no pun intended) comedy about twentysomethings trying to make it in the music biz. Given that touring musicians tend to end up being relatively nocturnal due to their chosen professions, the combo was a no-brainer.
“You got some red on ya.”
I had never heard of Stefaniuk before this, and was surprised to see that he was not only behind the camera but the lead actor, as well. He comes across like Zach Braff’s brother at times in the movie — both in the quality of his voice and he looks a ton like the guy — but also that instant likeability. He’s nothing spectacular as a thespian, but his comic timing and delivery is impeccable. He grounds the movie’s tone by his response to the melee happening around him, never going over the top and even though he doesn’t freak out quite as much as you might think one would when his bandmate is revealed to be a bloodsucker, he plays it just right: being shocked yet with just a slight twinkle in his eye that keeps it solidly in the realm of comedy, not spoof-ville.
In fact, everyone gives a solid turn — Alice Cooper as, who else, The Devil; Henry Rollins as an asshole radio DJ; Iggy Pop as the music producer who has seen everything there is to see while on the road; Alex Lifeson as a border agent; Moby as a death metal frontman whose fans like to throw raw meat at them; Dave Foley channeling Rhys Darby’s Murray from Flight of the Conchords as the band’s manager; and Malcolm McDowell as an old-school vampire hunter.
“Dude, Anthony Kiedis! Man, what an honor to meet you!”
Which brings me to the only real gripe with the film: the whole Eddie Van Helsing subplot. I kinda dig that the name is a combo of Van Helsing and Van Halen, but since the other allusions in the film are a tad less on the nose (at least in moniker) I would’ve preferred the old-man vampire hunter not being so obviously named. But it’s a minor one because it’s a rather minor role and, while it’s essentially there to set up the finale, it doesn’t drive the stakes of the film. Also, since they are playing with the Dracula lore (which is admittedly a breath of fresh air that someone would bother to give us classic vampires instead of the re-vamped species that have no business being even called vampires) it gives them the ability to have Hugo (the band’s roadie) play the Renfield role — and he does so with great aplomb. He’s the lone French Canadian in the group and is the source of much of the humor, at his expense of course (I’m sure the yee-haw Americans who happen upon this flick will appreciate that). He’s perfect in the thankless role — I mean, if ever there was a more modern version of Renfield in the world than a tour roadie, I haven’t seen one.
Like I said, though, that’s barely even an issue and doesn’t detract whatsoever from the movie. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time, I immediately wanted to pop a movie right back in and watch it over again because it was so much fun the first time around. But, I did with Suck.
Now that’s what you call a high-flying solo. Get it?
Suck looks great. It comes in 5.1 surround sound which does well by the musical parts of the film. The bonus features are fun, too, and a nice bonus for a smaller release like this one. Seriously, just check this movie out, okay?
Shimmer this, motherfucker.