Sunday, March 21, 2010

Canadian Front ’10: Suck

Rock is dead, but it can still make a big mess—at least in Canada. When Joey Winner’s grade-z garage band, The Winners, starts to take off, it is definitely the result of supernatural causes (and a mounting body count). Boasting a host of rock & roll cameos, writer-director Rob Stefaniuk’s Suck (trailer here) is a funnier than average monster mash-up that screens during the 2010 Canadian Front, MoMA’s annual celebration of the cinema of our northern neighbor.

Someone more or less says it in the film: “The Winners are losers,” except Jessica, the band’s bass player and eye candy. Since she started with the ghostly goth look, the band’s meager fortunes have improved. Of course, she has recently been turned into a vampire and has forced the band’s Renfieldesque roadie to become her body-disposing familiar.

When the slow-on-the-uptake Winner figures out the truth, he tries to set some ground rules, like no more killing and no turning anymore band-members into vampires. Right, good luck with that. Of course, he also recognizes the novelty appeal of having a vampire in the band. As they tour from Toronto to their big CMJ showcase in New York, they leave a trail of body parts one-eyed vampire hunter Eddie Van Helsing can easily follow.

Suck is all about rock & roll, but there are recurring scenes that riff on the Robert Johnson crossroads legend, which are pretty cool. They also feature Alice Cooper as the film’s shadowy malevolent presence, making them even cooler. Other notable rock cameo appearances include Iggy Pop (also very cool), Moby (surprisingly funny), and Henry Rollins (totally lame).

The comedy of Suck might not be groundbreaking, but Stefaniuk’s twists on the old “you look pale” jokes are consistently funny. As a screen mash-up, Suck has a good work ethic, splattering out one joke after another, hoping to keep audiences amused (which mostly they will be). Particularly clever are its frequent take-offs on the iconic imagery of rock & roll history. As the lead, Stefaniuk is sort of a poor man’s Ben Stiller, but at least he keeps everything on track. Canadian former Kid in the Hall Dave Foley generates some big laughs as the band’s cynical manager, while Malcolm McDowell chews the scenery with entertaining relish as Van Helsing.

A film titled Suck is just asking for critical abuse, but Stefaniuk’s film is quite funny in its own cheerfully blood speckled way. Those well versed in the Canadian music scene will especially enjoy the cameos (many of whom might be somewhat lost on healthy American audiences) and could even recognize some of the dive clubs in which it was shot. It screens tomorrow (3/22) as Canadian Front concludes at MoMA.