Vampires and rock and roll seem like a (super)natural combination, don’t they? Not the way Twilight does it of course, all emo and stuff. And not really the way True Blood does it, all blues and gospel in the heart of the bayou. Real vampires, unless they’re Dracula and his pipe organ, are rock and roll, and it’s indeed most refreshing to have a movie like Suck realize that as both a philosophy and as a motion picture. Naturally, it’s a Canadian production, by Canadian filmmakers and starring a mostly Canadian cast (the rock star cameos are decidedly international). Suck, most assuredly, does not suck.
The film is about the band The Winners, a post-pop/rock outfit that’s trying to make their name in the music industry with extremely limited success. You know you’re in trouble when even your manager (in this case, the fall down hilarious former Kid in the Hall Dave Foley) is telling you that you should fire him. But Joey Winners (writer/director Rob Stefaniuk), the band’s leader, will not here of it! They will make it, they will get signed and they will be a hit! They just have to get from Montreal, around the Golden Horseshoe, through Western New York and to Manhattan for an industry showcase.
But something happened on the way to the forum, the flighty bassist Jennifer (Jessica Pare) gets a vampire’s teeth sunk into her. Sure she now is driven to drink the blood of the living as one of the walking dead, but she now has a marvellous stage presence that’s getting the band noticed on the road, and more importantly, more hits on their internet site. The hilarious part is how initially Joey is blissfully unaware of Jennifer’s bloodlettings, as well the perplexingly odd behaviour of their French roadie. “Are you sure there’s nothing different about you,” he keeps asking in a myriad of ways, but of course a secret like vampirism can’t stay secret for long. Eventually all the blood covered French roadies and missing bodies will catch up to you.
Accentuating that rock and roll on the road feeling is a number of top notch cameos. Alice Cooper easily does his best acting work since Wayne’s World as a Montreal bartender that keeps coming to Tim as a wise, rock sage. Iggy Pop plays a music guru that grants The Winners a recording facility, and later tries to tell Joey that there is a downside to letting a vampire in your band. In one of the more memorable cameos, there’s Henry Rollins as Rock’n Roger, of the Rock’n Roger Morning Show (At Night) playing Wolfman Jack to the action going on screen during act breaks, although he does also later cross paths with the completely vampirized Winners.
Although not a rock star cameo, and not really a cameo per se, there’s Malcolm McDowell, fresh off getting hung out to dry in Halloween II, as the ubiquitous Eddie Van Helsing, a vampire hunter following the Winners and their blood-soaked path to New York. It’s always a treat to watch Malcolm McDowell camp it up, and his eye-patched, drunk as a poet Van Helsing is a combination of John Wayne True Grit and C. Montgomery Burns glower power. The main cast, including Nicole de Boer, Mike Lobel, Dimitri Coats, and Paul Anthony as well as Stefaniuk and Pare, have a great, natural chemistry with each other. I can believe that they’ve been in the same smelly van together for weeks on end.
What’s really interesting about Suck though, aside from its provocative title, is that it rather seamlessly blends its comedic and horror elements into something fresh and original. I don’t think any true vampire fans are going to be walking away with a list of complaints about bloodlessness or sparkling or any of the dozen or so other things that make the ordinary cheering section for the nosferatu want to tear their hair out in frustration concerning the current trend for their favourite creatures of the night. There’s something in Suck that will appeal to the rock fan, the comedy fan or the vampire fan, if not all three at once. This could possibly The Canadian movie to get buzzing about coming out of TIFF this year.