Saturday, September 12, 2009


(Contemporary World Cinema)
(Canada, 2009, 90 minutes)
Written by: Rob Stefaniuk
Directed by: Rob Stefaniuk
Cast: Rob Stefaniuk , Jessica Pare, Malcolm McDowell, Alice Cooper,

"Suck"…doesn’t…so let’s move on…

Just when it seemed like the last thing the world needed was another musical-horror-comedy-cult-flick-wannabe (a moment of silence for “Repo! The Genetic Opera” and Troma’s “Poultreygeist”) along comes this off-the-radar charmer from Canada that successfully dishes out all three with enthusiasm and aplomb while mining some pretty well-worn terrain (Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, and Freddie Francis beat ‘em to it). Prospects for a “Rocky Horror”-caliber future are unlikely given today’s short-attention-span climate, but “Suck” is nonetheless a damn funny movie.

Rob Stefaniuk, whose 2004 debut “Phil The Alien” left no impression this reviewer whatsoever, wrote and directed this rollicking road movie that follows the unexceptional bar band The Winners (named after lead singer Joel Winner, also played by Stefaniuk) from the dingiest rock clubs of Montreal to Toronto to Buffalo to Manhattan as they hope to score a shot at the big time, despite advice from their manager (Dave Foley) that they should give up. The night before they embark (in their hearse) to a gig in Toronto, group bassist Jennifer (Jessica Pare—leading one to ask, Megan Fox Who?) returns from an overnight tryst with a ghoulish admirer and begins to exhibit some strange qualities: pale skin, an aversion to daylight, and a thirst for blood. While their hapless French-Canadian roadie Hugo gets stuck with the dirty work of cleaning up after a vampire, the band begins to experience unheard of success as Jennifer’s unique stage presence becomes a huge draw. Pursuing them is the combustible, eye-patched “Eddy” Van Helsing (Malcolm McDowell, who left “subtlety” back at Heathrow a long time ago), a descendent of the infamous vampire hunting family who’s afraid of the dark and seeks vengeance against uber-vamp The Queen (Dimitri Coates of the Philadelphia-based Burning Brides) for taking the life of his lounge-singer girlfriend back in the 70s.

Stefaniuk’s directorial skills have improved immensely since his debut: the road structure provides an effective hook so what we’re left with is not just another rudderless gag-fest ala the “Scary Movie” franchise. There’s a group dynamic amongst the band members—who one-by-one line up to volunteer to be Jennifer’s dinner—that rings true. Hipster cameo king Iggy Pop appears briefly as a reclusive producer, as do Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins, and most memorably, Moby as a G.G. Allin-type punk rocker (a non-vegan, too!), and Rush guitar Alex Lifeson in a hilarious deadpan turn as a U.S. border guard (he just might have a future in acting if the whole music thing doesn’t work out).

For Van Helsing’s flashback scenes to his 70s love-affair with a lounge singer (Barbara Mamabolo), snippets of a young Malcolm McDowell smoking and drinking from the orgy sequence in Lindsay Anderson’s classic “O Lucky Man!” are cleverly employed and rerun to hilarious effect, as if to acknowledge that the production could only afford to license a few seconds of a major studio release.

Inspired graphic flourishes include animated maps and stop-motion travel shots that suggest equal parts Ralph Steadman and Tim Burton, sly visual nods to genre founding fathers Murnau and Browning, and some winks to iconic music images like the cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road (duh!) and T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior” (beautifully done).

©Robert J. Lewis 2009