Review: Suck (dir. Rob Stefaniuk, 2009)


Canada, 2009
Director/writer: Rob Stefaniuk

Review by N Emmett.

Joey Winner (played by writer-director Rob Stefaniuk) is the lead singer of a band called the Winners – which is, ironically enough, not very successful. During a road trip, band member Jennifer (Jessica Paré) is turned into a vampire. Her newfound supernatural allure is a boost to the band’s fortunes – but how long can the other members cover up her habit of killing people?

Part vampire spoof, part road movie, part music video, part animation, part loving send-up of the rock business, Suck tries to be just a few too many things at the same time. This is evidenced by how, despite the straightforward nature of the plot outlined above, the first act of the film manages to be bewildering in its convolution.

Jennifer’s seduction by Dimitri Coats’ vampiric villain is one of the first things to occur, meaning that we barely get any time to know her before she becomes undead. Meanwhile, vampire hunter Eddie Van Helsing (Malcolm McDowell) is granted an entire origin story flashback – despite being a less important character. We are introduced to Joey’s ex-girlfriend, who turns out to have almost no bearing on the plot. Alice Cooper’s vampire turns up a couple of times – once in a dream sequence – but ends up being similarly suck1superfluous to the story. Plot points and characters are tumbling over each other as they try to form a coherent narrative.

In the making-of documentary included on the DVD, Stefaniuk states that the Suck is meant to be set in “a rock and roll world, where the sky is always red”. The fact that the film is a musical, with heavy MTV influence, allows for a degree of stylistation. But the problem is that this style, like the storyline, is all over the shop.

One minute Suck is amping up the gothic, presenting tableaux of pale-faced vampires reclining around the mansion; the next it homages the cover of Abbey Road as the goofball band members suck2stride over a zebra crossing. It then becomes stop motion, the Winners’ drive represented by a model trundling its way past a painted backdrop while evil eyes loom down from the sky.

The sheer aimlessness of all this is summed up by a scene in a gaudy convenience store. As strains of the Moonlight Sonata play on the soundtrack, Jennifer leers at her prey: a nerdy clerk. The music abruptly stops as one of the other band members pops over to the counter, but resumes when he leaves.

The gag, of course, is that the other guy interrupted the moment. But what was the moment? The sequence would only have worked if we were familiar with the sight of vampires leering at suck3clerks in gaudy convenience stores while Moonlight Sonata plays in the background. Suck aims to be a parody – but because of its hodge-podge lack of consistency, it has nothing to parody but itself.

After its first act, the film finally sorts itself out and gets down to telling a coherent story. However, the plot is too simplistic and the gags spread too thinly that it all ends up as the poor man’s Spinal Tap, with a bit of Vamp on the side.

There are inklings of a good flick in Suck. In amongst its kaleidoscope-like shifts of visual style are several effective moments, where the film succeeds in capturing a lush, album-cover image. Had Stefaniuk picked one of these moments and used it as the basis of an overall aesthetic, then suck4the film would at least have had some visual consistency.

Even then, however, we would still have been left with a bigger problem: the thrown-together script. In directing, writing and starring in Suck, Stefaniuk seems to have overexerted himself.  Cameos from such rock celebrities as Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins may add a certain cult appeal, but they do little to salvage his efforts.