Suck (2009) DVD Review

suckSuck (2009)

Directed by Rob Stefaniuk

Starring Rob Stefaniuk, Jessica Pare, Paul Anthony, Malcolm McDowell, Henry Rollins, Moby, Dimitri Coats, Dave Foley and Alice Cooper.

SUCK is out now in the UK on DVD from Fabulous Films!

Suck follows a rock band called the Winners, consisting of vocalist Joey Winner (Stefaniuk), bassist Jennifer (Jessica Paré), guitarist Tyler (Paul Anthony), drummer Sam (Mike Lobel), and French-Canadian roadie Hugo (Chris Ratz), along with their creepy manager Jeff (Dave Foley). As they tour across Canada and the USA Jennifer is turned into a vampire by Queeny (Dimitri Coats). A vampire hunter (who is afraid of the dark) named Eddie Van Helsing (McDowell) chases them down.

While on tour, one by one the band are turned into vampires. The band grows in popularity but Joey is losing interest in the vampire lifestyle. Joey tells Jennifer that they can become human again but they will need to kill Queeny. As they tour the country looking for Queeny the meet a number of freaks along the way.

Over the years there have been many versions of the blood sucking demon, some are classics like Nosferatu in 1922 right up to the modern day and Edward Cullen in the much derided Twilight. However you look at the way they have been portrayed most have had a new slant attached to them. Nosferatu with the long fingernails or Edward and being sparkly (Stop laughing at the back!). Suck, directed by Stefaniuk, of ‘Phil The Alien’ and the upcoming ‘Anxietyville’ decides to hit the middle ground and go for a more middle of the road vampire which could quite easily be pulled off with a decent budget at your next Halloween party.

suck1Often with low budget horror you have to be spot on with tone. You could potentially get away with a bad cast or script but if tone is not focussed, you will lose the audience. Suck hits it’s tone on the head early and continually gets it right. Focussing somewhere between The Rocky Horror Show and Idle Hands, both classic films. The tone is not too light to not make it scary and its not too dark and gory so you can enjoy it which ever way you like your horror films.

As the main cast are in a band, and sing original songs, another aspect of Suck that is well done is the music. If the songs weren’t catchy, this would drag you straight out of the film, but the music is played dead straight and I could quite easily have the songs on my headphones. In fact, the moment the film finished I checked on iTunes and the soundtrack is actually on there. Money well spent I say.

The main cast, mostly all Canadian actors work well with the material especially the main female Jennifer, played by Jessica Pare of Mad Men and Hot Tub Time Machine, having to play meek and innocent to start and be overly sexual once transformed into a vampire.

Being a metalhead for many years the film has a real kick in it with the various cameos from musicians. Alice Cooper plays an all powerful demon (with wings!), Henry Rollins a Radio DJ (playing well off his spoken word persona he now carries) and Alex Lifeson from Rush. The best of all the cameo s lies with Moby, I wont spoil who he plays but its played for laughs, Moby is clearly game, and runs with the role.

suck2Being a stalwart of the genre Malcolm McDowell plays a vampire hunter called Eddie Van Helsing, what a great name, and he is afraid of the dark. To me McDowell comes across as quite the serious actor, but in this semi-comedic role he plays against type and has fun. When I first heard of this film, I had trepidations. Was this film going to make fun of the two things I enjoy most, heavy metal music and horror, or was it going to enjoy the trappings of both and put a new spin on it? With the way the director shoots the film, the music and the acting I can safely say I was surprised by how great Suck is. I’d highly recommend it, and only wish it was slightly longer.

8/10

Eurohorror Spotlight #9: Frostbite (Sweden, 2006)

 

fb1Eurohorror Spotlight #9: Frostbite (Sweden, 2006)

aka Frostbitten

Director: Anders Banke

Starring: Grete Havenskold, Petra Nielsen, Emma Aberg

The coach trip, as it were, returns to the cold climate of Sweden for a comedy/horror that seems to be preaching “drugs are bad, mm’kay?”

Its 1944 and in Ukraine, men from the German Army Scandinavian Volunteer Division are under attack and run into the snowy woods nearby. They stumble upon a cabin and break in. It appears empty and they decide to spend the night there. In the night they wake as a previously unseen woman drops down from the rafters and grabs one of the men and climbs up the wall with amazing strength and speed. As the panic about what has happen one soldier falls down a trap door into the cabin’s basement. Down there are dead bodies and a small coffin with Maria written on it. Something from inside it tries to push the nails out of the lid. Scared, the soldiers quickly bury it before anything else will happen to them.

fb2Fast forward to what looks like the present and we see a woman driving a car with a girl, Saga, asleep next to her. They are moving into a new apartment in a region of Sweden that experiences ‘polar night’: no daylight for 30 days. Saga goes exploring the area and a man on a motorbike nearly runs her over. She walks off in disgust but something in the nearby woods is watching them. It attacks the biker. When his body is found an autopsy is carried out and two puncture marks are found on his neck.

Saga (Havenskold), the next day, is at her new school. Everyone is abuzz with the news of the murder. An eccentric student named Vega (Aberg) approaches her and invites her to a party later in the week. Vega is planning to take some pills with her that a friend found in the local hospital. The same hospital where Saga’s mother is now working that also has a ‘patient’ that may be involved in what happened in Ukraine back in 1944.

fb3The movie starts off promising thanks to the intriguing scene in the cabin. The soldiers stumbling upon the child sized coffin will grab most peoples attention, more so once the person inside screams and somehow forces the nails out of the wood, due to the fact there is something horrifying about seeing a coffin of that size. The death of a child is understandably shocking but when it transpires the child within the casket isn’t quite dead then it shocks even more. This imagery is little used as the film takes a slightly frivolous tone thereafter.

This is thanks to the ‘present day’ setting of Saga and the students of her new school. Much of the humour comes from Saga’s new school friends taking a ‘drug’ that does more to them than just getting them high. The viewer is shown what the junkies imagine they see as they start their trip: a talking dog appears frequently telling one character he is a failure. One dog, in the woods, asks if the druggie has “…seen my ball?” Then tells him it doesn’t matter as it runs away. After a while the comedy becomes too much as the plot tries to shift back towards horror. But the drug induced hallucinations and the ‘humour’ they offer still crop up in the middle of the grisly blood shed.

fb4It should be noted the drugs taken actually turn the characters into vampires. As the high passes the user is in great pain and cannot stomach anything. They eventually attack non-users and even animals. This leads to one unsettling scene when a pet rabbit is munched on by a relieved junkie-turned-vamp. The party the students attend turns into a blood bath as those who didn’t take the pills are set upon by those that did.

The setting of Frostbite does lend itself to an eerie atmosphere and environment. Every scene outside appears to be night time due to the location of the town. The vampires are aware of the lack of daylight when they taunt that “…daylight is just a month away!” This idea would later be used in 2007’s 30 Days of Night. The lighting, as a result, leaves many characters semi luminous with many darkened areas around them, ideal for any bloodsucker to make their attack.

fb5The use of drugs turning people into vampires could be an attempt to dis-encourage people from using mind altering substances. People becoming blood thirsty may be an allegory for real life users becoming addicted and wanting more drugs. It is something that will be interpreted differently from viewer to viewer, no doubt.

The film is entertaining although a little frustrating due to its over reliance on comedy. If Frostbite went for ‘all out horror’ it would have been even better.

7 out of 10.

Readily available in the UK on DVD with English subtitles.

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

OOnly Lovers Left Alive (2014)

123 mins

Dir: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tom Hiddlestone, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska and Anton Yelchin

Two vampires Adam (Hiddlestone) and Eve (Swinton) have been in a centuries-long relationship and are reuniting, after time spent apart, in Detroit, where Adam spends his time secluded in his music studio, producing his ‘funeral music’ that has earnt him a huge cult following. The pair face a struggle to find a constant source of pure blood supply as well as the imminent arrival of Eve’s sister, Ava (Wasikowska) who has a history of losing control of her ‘hunger’…

It is a sad fact that it has been a long time since a modern day classic vampire film has emerged. The last truly fantastic example was David Slade’s frankly terrifying adaptation of the ‘30 Days of Night’ series which did a superb job of making vampires a proper image of pure fear once again. There was also the cult-hit ‘Queen of the Damned’ at the peak of the nu-metal craze with its kick-ass soundtrack and heavy emphasis on sex appeal and of course Coppola’s masterpiece in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, with Gary Oldman providing the best ever turn as Dracula (I went there) and the film bathed in gloriously OTT lashings of stylised gothic romance.

O1 So where does ‘Only Lovers left Alive’ come into the equation of vampire films? Simply put, it’s a future classic that officially has set the new bar for vampire films to come. Of course, this is an opinion that will certainly not be shared by all. Indeed, many will simply loathe this film and call it arty hipster pretentious wank and if this review works on any level, you’ll hopefully be able to see precisely how people could have such drastically contrasting opinions!

Possibly the main stickler for many will be the plot or rather, in the negative view, distinct lack of one. My brief synopsis at the beginning only dealt with one particular incident in a film that is far more content to let mood and atmosphere take precedence. On top of this, the film’s main focus is just to stare longingly like a besotted teenager at the deep gothic romance that sizzles between its lead characters. Oh and they’re friends with the still alive Christopher Marlowe (Hurt) and the adorably hopeless Ian (Yelchin) who is Adam’s manager of sorts.

Much time in the film is dedicated to lengthy discussions about famous authors, books, instruments, musicians and great thinkers. Some will derive great humour from the cheeky nods to various pieces of classical culture but this is sure to alienate those who are less ‘cultured’ and certainly to mainstream culture would smack of trying to be incredibly ‘hipster’ for the sake of it. It is debatable as to whether or not the film is actually in on the joke, Adam sternly rebukes Ava when she asks for a digital download of his music (he favours vinyl, of course) and Ian is made to look very desperate when putting on his own pair of sunglasses in a club to try and fit in with the undead trio.

O2 Short of Adam’s dramatic threats of suicide to escape the ‘zombies’ (regular people), a certain nasty incident that befalls hapless Ian and the need to obtain pure blood, there is very little by means of narrative drive. In place of punctual neck puncturing, the film devotes to time to simply following the lead couple as they take in the dark and desolate city of Detroit on their many drives at night. This is certain to infuriate most but the film has this deceptively vampiric way of drawing you in and leaving all desires for tension or even conflict behind. A comparison could be made that is almost as if Nic Winding Refn helmed his own version of the still over-looked ‘Near Dark’, with extra layers of gothic romance turned up to 11.

It must really irk Jim Jarmusch that the perfect tagline for the film has already been inappropriately used by the first ‘Twilight’ film. “When you can live forever, what do you live for?” is much better suited to OLLA as it is the crux of what makes the incendiary onscreen romance between Hiddleston and Swinton so compelling. Yes some may find their constant lounging around in each other’s arms and endless fawning over one another distasteful, but what Jarmusch has expertly captured is the idea that each means absolutely everything in the world to the other. This is the kind of epic love story done on such a small scale that we have not seen in a long time, or certainly not as well conveyed by two of Britain’s most talented actors.

03We are invited by Jarmusch to almost feel like an unseen third party in their relationship, that they love each other so uncontrollably that it can’t help but over-spill and wash over the audience. It’s not all passionate embraces and endless shagging however, the two share their squabbles that remain even after their third wedding but also they, like the film, have a very dry sense of humour about their vampire status. The film’s standout scene is when the two of them share blood popsicles together, yes an easy gag but one that works perfectly.

Hiddleston oozes the vampiric sex appeal of the ‘troubled artist’,  a mess of black hair covers his face and he spends most of the time shirtless but never is he insufferably moody, just an alluring misanthrope who is more than capable of holding your attention with a piercing stare (move over Loki). Swinton provides the ‘brighter’ counterpart, a novel and nature lover who seems to be the only being capable of eliciting a smile out of  Hiddleston and the pair have such a firey  onscreen chemistry that fits together like ying and yang. A PROPER undead romance done properly and one that rivals even Oldman’s Dracula and Ryder’s Mina, that’s how powerful it is!

O4The delicious black cherry on top of the film’s dense trance-like atmosphere is the mind-meltingly perfect moody tones of the soundtrack, helmed by Jozef van Wissem and Squrl. Adam’s ‘funeral music’ is featured heavily throughout as it perfectly encapsulates his doom-laden and nihilistic attitude of life and when things start to go wrong for the characters. When the music transcends from simply being background to a key component of the overall success of the film, again much like with Winding Refn’s work, clearly it’s working perfectly. The moody tones are wonderfully counter-balanced by one scene when Adam and Eve dance to a poppy vinyl track in one of the film’s few outward examples of being even remotely ‘cheery’.

Ultimately, the film’s appeal is aimed directly at those who revel in the gothic romance element of the vampire mythos. Those who prefer their coffin-dwellers with more bite and less navel-gazing had best steer clear but what cannot be denied is that this film has all the makings of a genre classic that will be taken and poured over for years to come.

Verdict: An intoxicating piece of pure gothic cinema, the likes of which we have not seen in many a year. Excruciatingly slow for many but for others, a bewitching, profoundly romantic delight 10/10   

Kiss of The Damned (2012) DVD Review

KISS 001KISS OF THE DAMNED (2012) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Josephine de La Baume, Roxane Mesquida, Milo Ventimiglia, Michael Rapaport

Written by: Xan Cassavetes

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £14.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 95 minutes

Directed by: Xan Cassavetes

UK Release Date: 27th January 2014

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with vampire movies. Growing up I was spellbound by the terrifying glare of Bela Lugosi in the classic Universal Horrors, while The Lost Boys (1987) came out when I was ten and proved to be a defining movie in my adolescence. Meanwhile I have to confess Blade (1998) didn’t really get me all that excited, nor did Underworld (2003) and the dawn of a new century just seemed to bring with it a slew of ‘rent-a-vampire’ movies (The Forsaken, The Breed) that seemed to offer little in originality.

More recently however there has been a wave of independent filmmakers attempting bring something new to this tired strand of the horror genre. From the superb Swedish film Let The Right One In (2008), through to Stake Land (2010) and Midnight Son (2011) the vampire movie is indeed in the midst of a renaissance – dare I say almost in rebellion to the vapid commercialism of the Twilight franchise?

KISS 002Kiss of the Damned piques the interest first and foremost as in the director’s chair is none other than Xan Cassavetes, daughter of John, who is shooting her first full length feature. We open to an exterior shot of a sizeable property by the side of a lake. In it, we see Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) watching De Sica’s Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953). She appears to be besotted by film as soon after we witness her taking a trip to her local video store to return a stack of movies which is where she first sets eyes on Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia). After a brief drink they retreat back to Djuna’s palatial house where after engaging in some Luis Bunuel (who wouldn’t want to date this woman!) things become intimate, at which point Djuna stops and decides the night is over.

The following day Paolo finds he can’t get Djuma out of his head and attempts to see her. A telephone call to her house is deflected by the housekeeper, while a personal visit leads to a passionate kiss on the doorstep resulting the spilling of blood. Djuma feels she has no other choice but to inform Paolo of her vampirism – which he of course scoffs at, until that us she chains herself to the bed with the intention of transforming before him. Paolo remains besotted, so much so he unshackles her so they can make love and in the process the inevitable happens, Djuma sinks her teeth into Paolo’s neck. This union of raw passion and desire is about to encounter a problem though in the shape of Djuma’s sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) who decides to call over and stay for a week. She’s wild, a little out of control and the exact antithesis to her sister – and she is about to cause trouble.

The overriding feature of Kiss of the Damned is undoubtedly class. It’s directed by someone with an overt appreciation of film-making whose passion for film history is to be found in every scene. With two smouldering French actresses for the leads, the Euro-connection doesn’t cease there as the films influence undoubtedly has a tip of the hat towards masters such as Rollin, Argento and even Polanski.

KISS 003This is a vampire film for people who appreciate the medium and have spent the last few years in utter despair at the dilution of the term ‘vampire’ into a tween-pleasing fetish towards asexual beings with Barbie and Ken genitalia. Kiss of the Damned oozes sexuality, but plays with it in a subtle manner while its eclectic soundtrack dominates the film, bursting through every scene perforating the celluloid yet conversely remains in the background. Xan Cassavetes film really is a pleasure to digest from beginning to end and demands to be sought out by horror aficionados.

8 out of 10

Extras:

Audio commentary with director Xan Cassavetes

Cast and crew interviews