Suck


Year 2009

Malcolm McDowell   as Eddie Van Helsing  
Jessica Paré as  Jennifer
Rob Stefaniuk as Joey
Alice Cooper as Bartender
Iggy Pop as Victor
Dave Foley as Jeff
 
Director - Rob Stefaniuk  
Screenwriter - Rob Stefaniuk

 

This is an excellent horror comedy dealing with vampires. The tone of movie can be summarized by looking at the vampire hunter. He's played by Malcolm McDowell, a.k.a. Alex from Clockwork Orange. The movie gets credibility points by just having icon Malcolm McDowell appear on the screen, muchless having him play one of the pivotal characters.

Look at his character's name. Van Helsing, if you don't know, is the name of Bram Stoker's original vampire killer. Everyone and their sister has somehow worked the name Van Helsing into their vampire movie. Using Van Helsing is a boring cliché...usually. But this is Eddie Van Helsing. This is an obvious reference to Eddie Van Halen. Yep, this is a hard rock version of vampires.

When I saw the movie, I turned it on just because Malcolm McDowell was listed as one of the stars. I had no idea that rock an roll/punk icons would be minor characters. As each one came on the screen, my respect for the movie grew.

The plot is simple enough. A mediocre band finds popularity once they become vampires. But, vampires are bad. The band has to wrestle with the question of whether their success is worth the whole damnation thing. Van Helsing is the hero, the "Bartender" is the villain, and Victor is the voice of reason. The band members are the pawns in the whole cosmic concept of right and wrong.

From my point of view, I love rock and roll. Not the crap that's masquerading as popular music, but good old, in your face, blues roots, challenge the world, rock and roll. Into that category, you can throw everyone from Howlin' Wolf to The Ramones to L.A. Guns. I spent an hour or so with Alice Cooper years ago. It was a chance for a lad to meet one of his idols. Alice is as great a person one-on-one as he seems to be from a fan's distance away. (In fact, once I publish my book, he's getting a copy. He's that kind of personable guy.)

Despite all of this potential for big name smarminess, Suck is a small movie. It's not overblown or over produced. In fact, it's a warm and friendly movie. That is if you consider scenes where vampires use straws to suck blood "warm and friendly".

There are a number of scenes that stick out. There's one where the band is feasting on a groupie and their manager Jeff (Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall and News Radio) walks in. This is the guy who's sole purpose in life is to manage a rock and roll band and nothing, not murder and not vampires, is worth getting worked up about if the band is a success. Jeff realizes that the fan is moving. He says something like, "Oh, she's still alive? Hi, I'm the manager."

How about the lead guitarist from one of the biggest rock groups of the eighties playing a border patrol guard who used to be in a band? That would be Alex Lifeson from Rush. The scene was obviously added just for Alex, and you probably wouldn't be able to pick him out a line-up of other low keyed million record selling guitarists. (If someone showed you a dozen pictures of guys, could you pick out Greg Lake?) But once you know who the border guard is, the scene is enjoyable.

The death of guest punker Harold Rollins as abrasive disc jockey Rockin' Roger is another nice scene. Roger is a loud mouth agitator who thinks the whole vampire ambience is mere costume drama promotion. The band shows him the truth. Jeff backs them all the way claiming that it was a great PR coup and so what if Roger was killed in the process.

Alice Cooper? Owns his scenes. Iggy Pop? Likewise. Malcolm McDowell? With an eyepatch and a crossbow, are you kidding? (Plus there's a flashback using footage from O Lucky Man! that I thought was inspired.) Jessica Paré? Beautiful and commanding.

Dimitri Coats of Burning Brides? Serviceable but not awe inspiring as the head vampire Queeny. Moby? He should not play a hard core punker. He's too short, pudgy, and amateurish. His awkward, crude character definitely detracted from the film. And his one song was less than mesmerizing.

The music was both the best and the worst aspect of this movie. Simply add the Igster's T.V. Eye to a movie and your blood starts pounding. Sometimes, like Velvet Goldmine you've got stop the movie and put Fun House in the CD player because the movie is ruining the song. Other times, like with Suck, you just enjoy the movie more.

Snippets of music sung by Lou Reed, Iggy, Alice, and Bowie are high points. Even the Burning Brides' music was a plus. But, Rob Stefaniuk can't write rockers. Oh, his songs sound nice and harmless, but that's not the attitude of this movie. This movie needed rough and dangerous and Rob Stefaniuk's tunes didn't have the killer edge.

That's a shame because, for me, new driving rhythms would have moved Suck from the Not Shabby to the More Than Once category. Rob's the writer, director, and lead actor. I think he overextended himself by trying to be the main song writer as well.

Still, if you like a little comedy with your gore and you like internationally famous scenery chewers who rein it in just enough, then check this one out. Keep your expectations low and you may find a new special film to warm up to the next cold Halloween.

There's some chick flick potential here because vampire Jennifer becomes the leader of the band. Every other member of the band is male, but she controls them all because she, like all vampires, attains physical perfection as part of the potentially living forever versus eternal damnation deal.


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