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Monday, 21 November 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Suck

(Note: this is the US poster, and is marketed completely different to the UK DVD cover, which I couldn't find on Google, hence the differences in cast credits)

Directed by: Rob Stefaniuk

Produced by: Robin Crumley
Jeff Rogers
Victoria Hirst

Screenplay by: Rob Stefaniuk

Starring: Rob Stefaniuk
Jessica Pare
Iggy Pop
Alice Cooper
Malcolm McDowell
Dave Foley
Moby
Henry Rollins
Paul Anthony
Mike Lobel
Chris Ratz
Dmitri Coats

Cinematography by: D. Gregor Hagey

Editing by: Michele Conroy

Distributed by: Capri Films

Release date(s): September 11, 2009 (Canada)
April 16, 2010 (United States premiere, RiverRun International Film Festival)
October 11, 2010 (United Kingdom DVD Premiere)

Running time: 87 minutes

Country: Canada

Language: English

Budget: $3.5 million

Box office revenue: (Unavailable)


Ahoy there matey! 'Tis I, The Thin White Dude! Alright, I'll get rid of the Pirate gimmick, I've had a wild couple of days. On a special note (that makes me sound disabled, right?), I was at the Queens Film Theatre on Saturday as part of Cinemagic's Mark Kermode Film Night. The good Dr. was promoting his new book, The Good The Bad And The Multiplex, and presenting The Buddy Holly Story, a movie that I enjoyed and am looking forward to watching again. However, highlight of the night for me was winning a prize giveaway DVD copy of the film on the basis of Mark selecting my citing Neds as a movie "of savage grace," a comment which I used in my review of the film, as audience comment of the night. For those of you who don't know, Kermode is the film critic whose work I admire the most, so for him to compliment me in that manner means a lot, so I would like to shout out a big thank you to the good man himself. My second shout-out is to the gang at Spill.com, whose reviews I have been eating up like a box of Pringles! Finally, the last shout-out goes to Charlie Chaplin, who has made writing Film Studies essays such a privilege: I treasure every moment I get to watch one of his films.

So, yes, I'm in a pretty good mood. Also, I've had about a week to evaluate this film over in my head, so I know where I am going with this one. Suck is a film that was released in the United States in 2009, but I picked my copy up in HMV for £3 a couple of weeks ago. The DVD case reads the year 2011, even though the ' UK DVD Premiere' was in October 2010. Personally, I've never seen a copy before, and the 2011 gives me enough justification to review it. So, Suck is billed as a 'rock-'n-roll vampire comedy,' and stars rock legends Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins and Moby. It follows failing band The Winners, fronted by Joey Winner (the film's writer-director Rob Stefaniuk), who is hungry for fame. Despite things taking a turn for the better for the band, Joey is irritated that the band's bassist Jennifer (Jessica Pare) is getting all the attention, due to having been turned into a vampire. However, hot on their tail on the road is Eddie Van Helsig (the great Malcolm McDowell), a vampire hunter who is afraid of the dark.

To start off with the good, it must first be mentioned that the "rock royalty" the DVD markets with top billing, Cooper, Pop, Rollins and Moby, all star in very small bit-parts, so these roles aren't as substantial as we would be lead to believe. Nevertheless, they each play the parts well. Cooper doesn't do much, but creates a convincingly mysterious presence. Nobody does crazy quite like Iggy Pop, and Henry Rollins is highly entertaining in his insults towards the film's main band, The Winners. Most surprising is the normally modest Moby, who plays the complete opposite of himself, a self-indulgent asshole who seems have a fetish towards meat. In larger roles, Chris Ratz does a good job playing Hugo, the film's equivalent of a Renfield character. Also, Dave Foley is pretty funny in this film as The Winners' manager, a manager who is almost as bad as Stephen Merchant's Agent in Extras. As ever though, it is the great Malcolm McDowell who flourishes as Eddie Van Helsig. His part is a real scene-stealer, and provides the film's best laughs. Furthermore, he isn't going in there shouting "Look at me, I'm Malcolm McDowell." He is wise and intelligent enough an actor to know when to blend into the background, something that he does very well when necessary. Also worthy of mention is Rob Stefaniuk's job as a director. Considering when you think about how bad the movie could have turned out, it is a testament to his control and efficiency that he was able to make something watchable out of this film. There are also some wise decisions to work around the film's limited budget. Shooting most of the travelling scenes in claymation and the editing by Michele Conroy ensure that we don't get drawn into laborious scenes of the band on the road. It also means that the film has a relatively consistent pace and doesn't fall in low troughs for certain sections. At eighty-seven minutes, the film is as long as it needs to be. Finally, no one can deny that some of the soundtrack, featuring Cooper, The Stooges, David Bowie and The Velvet Underground, is so timeless and listenable that you can't help but feel good, especially with the film's inclusion (and use) of The Stooges' TV Eye.

As much of a novelty as Suck is, it is also highly problematic and is by no means the cult movie it aims to be. My friend and fellow film critic Daniel Kelly always makes a good point when he gets pissed off about film's that try to be deliberately 'grindhouse' (look at Tarantino's Death Proof by itself and it falls flat on it's face), and the case is the same with those try too hard to be 'cult.' If you have talent like those that Stefaniuk got into the film, good as they were, they shouldn't just pop up as window dressing. This is not the only problem with the film's script. Structurally, it is so transparent that you can see everything coming multiple scenes before they happen. For a such a 'cult' horror-comedy, it is way too predictable. Having the right balance between horror and comedy can be hard to do, but Stefaniuk's script doesn't succeed in either department. The dialogue is nowhere near as funny as it ought to be, and the term 'horror' only seems to relate to the fact that vampires are involved in the films. Furthermore, the vampire make-up for all of the actors bar one (not unveiling for spoiler reasons) is awful. I know that in the case of Jessica Pare this might be deliberate, but Dmitri Coats and everyone else in the film look embarrassingly stupid. Finally, and I will count this as a fault for I don't interpret this as a satire, The Winners band themselves suck. You are meant to get behind the underdogs, and as they grow in success their songs 'improve,' but of course they don't really, they're still terrible. I know that music taste is subjective, but man, when you have Iggy and Alice Cooper on your soundtrack (and not even particularly good Along Came A Spider Alice Cooper), these guys' rubbish performances only seems all the worse. Off the stage, they do not fare well either. I know Stefaniuk's character is meant to be a dick, but Moby was more entertaining as a dick in twenty times less screen time. Also, Jessica Pare's acting severely lacks the charisma that her character requires, while Paul Anthony and Mike Lobel came across as nothing more than spare tyres as The Winners' guitarist and drummer respectively.

Look, to call a movie Suck is always risky business, as it leaves you wide open to have some critics go for predictable 'review-in-a-nutshell' pun based off the title. On the other hand, I've seen 'xoxMARSVAxox' on YouTube give the old "The movie was totally different from its title! IT ROCKS! \m/" Regardless of these polar opposites (the latter comment makes me want to cane the user's typing fingers for the horrible grammar. Yes, I'm a grammar bitch, bitch!), Suck is neither. It has its pros in decent performances (excluding The Winners and Dmitri Coats), decent editing, decent soundtrack and decent direction. However, it is nothing more than a decent movie, as The Winners, our protagonists, 'suck' (I'm already a hypocrite, pulling out the title references), both as actors and performers, the script is a mess, the makeup is bad and it tries way too hard to be a cult film. If you want to see a cult horror-comedy, go watch Repo! The Genetic Opera. Furthermore, the music is awesome! Suck is not a bad film, nor a good film, just average.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Busy (I'll be glad to be rid of these Uni essays and get back to some hardcore reviewing)

P.S. To 'xoxMARSVAxox:' nothing personal, I decided to go with you as my reference, and I don't care about your grammatical 'errors.' No one has a monopoly on grammar, so feel free to right what you will, regardless of my opinion and yours differing

P.P.S. My next two reviews will be for The Rum Diary and (finally) I Saw The Devil, so keep those eyes posted

P.P.P.S. My researching for this film's poster has reminded me of a recent error: Barbarossa: Siege Lord is not the first '0' rating I have given out a few years. Last year, I gave one to my worst film of the year, Vampires Suck. The less said, the better, I'm still trying to recover from post-traumatic flashbacks!

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