I like the versatility of vampires. Across media and genres, vampires have been interpreted to mean many things: from expressions of forbidden sexuality — homosexual and otherwise — to xenophobic fears of ‘the other,’ to the literal bloodsucking parasitism of the privileged.
So I figured I should shed some light on Suck.
Suck, written and directed by Rob Stefaniuk, is a 2009 film about a struggling rock band, ironically named The Winners. The cast is largely made up of Canadian actors, with some notable exceptions.
Jennifer (Jessica Paré), the band’s bassist, is turned into a vampire within the first 15 minutes of the film. The other band members notice something different about her, but they don’t know what it is.
That is, until she gets caught eating a fellow musician.
Jennifer racks up quite the body count because if she doesn’t eat often, she suffers from a sort of blood withdrawal. So, the other band members have to decide whether to become vampires or stay human. After 10 years, this seems to be their shot — do they take it?
The film is about fame and success. But it’s also about the price of that success. Thus, it is also partly a tale about morality. Joey (Stefaniuk), the lead singer, spends a good deal of time mulling over the very idea of being a vampire — and thus, getting the fame and success that he had been chasing.
“Dude, being famous ain’t all it’s cracked up to be,” warned Victor (Iggy Pop), a music recorder. The film’s characters are aware of the existence of vampires, and Victor doesn’t trust them. This is in contrast to Jeff (Dave Foley), the band’s sleazy manager who sees vampires as a means to an end, not minding that they kill people.
The literal visualizations of Joey’s conundrum come in a scene set at a crossroads. The first of these visualizations has Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” playing faintly in the background, which adds depth — but not just because of the song’s name.
According to legend, Johnson met the devil at a crossroads and sold his soul to become the world’s greatest blues player. Over 80 years after his passing, Johnson remains an incredibly influential musician. Of course, there’s no truth to the myth, but it still lingers around his legacy.
With this in mind, a Faustian bargain hangs over Joey’s head. The devil stand-in (Alice Cooper) in this scene is pushing him toward eternal youth and fame in exchange for his soul and humanity.
However, the film doesn’t bludgeon the audience over the head with the metaphor; it is not shy about the fact that it is first and foremost a comedy.
The film revels in the corn syrup blood, and the dialogue is stuffed with vampire puns. “Here, try some groupie!” cracks me up. The puns extend into the sexual, with two men characters insinuating that Jennifer perform oral sex on them. The word “suck” is used — suck their blood, that is.
There are also visual references to famous rock albums, including the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. Music jokes are made alongside the vampire jokes, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s clear that the movie is about rock music and the lifestyle — just with vampires.
Combined with an excellent soundtrack, a grungy, mid-2000s ‘scene’ aesthetic, and some creative use of special effects and camerawork, this film is a hidden gem. It didn’t get a fair shake in terms of the box office.
Maybe it’s because it came out in 2009, the year of the vampire. That year saw the second of the Twilight movies, the second season of True Blood, and several other vampire films. By the end of True Blood’s run, the market was saturated with vampire films and shows. However, Suck stands apart from these other films and series, primarily in how it interprets the vampires.
Modern films tend to romanticize vampires. Suck does, too, to an extent. But it’s more about what being a vampire means — and not in the broody, self-loathing way we see in Interview with the Vampire or Twilight. Vampires are like rock stars, and the film also asks what it would mean to trade a ‘normal life’ for the one promised at the crossroads.
But hey, vampires are ultimately cool. So, go watch Suck.