Man. If you’re going to name your movie Suck, you’d better be damn sure that the movie isn’t even remotely bad. It’s like naming your band Garbage. If you write even one single that is poorly received, everyone is going to rip you apart and the easy jokes will never end. It also doesn’t help that this movie is hitting shelves around the same time that Vampires Suck is hitting theathers because if the press is anything to believe, that movie is a piece of fucking shit and the name and vampire mode of this flick is sure to confuse folks at the Red Box.
Vampires are hot again and I’m at a loss to explain why. In the past, the monster has represented some fairly easy to identify social ills. At its earliest appearances in folklore, the monster represented high mortality rates in infants and perpetuated the bad reputation of dead locals with a legacy of bad behavior. In the 90’s, the vampire became an adequate metaphor for AIDS. For the last ten years, the zombie has been the perfect American monster as it’s a fairly solid stand-in for anyone you may happen to know but I can’t quite put a finger on the reappearance of the vampire. Truth be told, the latest iteration is a creature that I hardly recognize and while I’m the last person to scoff at someone playing fast and loose with genre conventions, our current vampire template is hardly a god damn vampire at all. True Blood paints them out to be neutered wimps, pining for mortality and a piece of warm-blooded ass and Twilight; well, I’m not even remotely comfortable addressing that situation. Another emergence in horror recently has been the reawakening of the horror comedy musical. It’s as though half a dozen filmmakers woke up one morning and realized that they had a hearty thirst for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Repo The Genetic Opera, a flick I still have yet to see but am told is quite terrible, started a ball rolling that opened the door for Suck. Honestly, I can’t say that I don’t welcome a vampire movie that also happens to hit me in the sweet spot with a good soundtrack.
The Winners are not a very good rock band. The tour the northern states of the U.S. and cross into Canada, barely entertaining laconic crowds with their Pixies meets T. Rex indie rock. Following their latest show, bass player, Jennifer, is seduced by a local vampire and taken back to party and become one of them. When she rejoins the band at the next show, the audience responds to the enchanting bass player. More members of the band join the vampire game and the band’s profile rises until they’re the biggest thing in rock, but a vengeful vampire hunter is on their tail and they’ll find out if the vampire angle is all they had to thank for their success. During their rise and fall, The Winners cross paths with guest stars who have actual musical roots, lending the movie a little credibility. The head vampire, who could have been Johnny Depp’s stunt double in Alice In Wonderland, also lends a few musical numbers.
Floating a single genre, on its own, is a really challenging thing. Take a look at the volumetric shit-ton of trash floating around out there under the guise of a horror movie. Now consider writing a script that blends two challenging genres and then add the musical angle. In the past, the task of scoring a musical has been left up to the experts who make their living writing songs or crafting the classics on Broadway. The people writing the hit musicals are already a stiff commodity with a huge price tag. Even Rocky Horror, Grease and Hedwig and the Angry Inch had the benefit of being stage musicals before they went in front of cameras. It’s inconceivable that an indie film production would even dream of tackling the idea but writer, director, star and chief song writer, Rob Stefaniuk took it on and somehow managed to talk some seriously heavy rock royalty into being in his movie. With the cast made up mostly of actors and actresses you’ve never heard of, said royalty winds up with their names toplining the poster even though they all occupy the screen for an average of five minutes a piece on the high end. Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins, Alex Lifeson and Moby show up with a supporting role going to Dave Foley. This being a Canadian production, it should come as no surprise that it hits you with a couple of Canadian personalities.
Suck is a mostly well constructed horror comedy musical that surprisingly delivers in the musical department. The most surprising aspect of the movie is how well The Winners hold up in the face of the rock and roll challenge.Unfortunately, lasting cult musicals share the common bond of a tracklist of catchy sing-along songs that get the whole place singing at the midnight shows and this is where Suck starts to lose points. While I could see myself actually sitting here, writing this review, while listening to The Winners, the music feels like it came off of any given indie album. Every song reminds me of The Pixies or David Bowie, depending on what the scene calls for, but a cult musical calls for its music to be as campy as the movie and that’s what Suck lacks. Sliding further away, the plot wanders in a few random directions, never really going anywhere, never really developing any characters until all of a sudden, our previously mediocre band is now the biggest thing in rock. There’s no exposition. It just happens. Leading man and one man show, Rob Stefaniuk, is playing a stock down and out rock and roll character we haven’t seen a thousand times in movies such as these before but the rest of the cast shines. Sorry, Rob. Leading lady, Jessica Pare, ordinarily lanky and awkward, the girl next door channeling the spirit of Kim Deal steals the show in every scene she occupies thanks to a truly captivating set of wardrobe, visual effects and makeup. Just as intended, she’s hard to take your eyes off of. Backup characters also pull their weight with Henry Rollins turning in an awesome role as an obnoxious rock jock, Alice Cooper being cool as always and Moby who practically runs away with the whole show. I swear, if they ever make a biopic about Judas Priest, he gets to play Rob Halford. You heard it here!
Suck is not without its merits, though. I make it sound like it’s a waste of time but it’s not. It’s loaded with references to album covers like Abbey Road and T. Rex’s Electric Warrior. It’s a movie that is clearly in love with rock and while the metaphor of selling your soul for fame falls a bit flat thanks to an uneven script it has a steady stream of mostly funny gags and a hilarious fall-guy in the form of Chris Ratz, the band’s French Canadian roadie who winds up in the Renfield role, cleaning up the band’s mess. Suck just doesn’t have the crucial balance of ingredients to make a cult musical. It’s not campy enough to travel that road but what original music there is is quite good. It’s funny when it tries to be and god damn it, Alice Cooper is fucking awesome! Recognize!