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MOVIE REVIEW

Suck

Amped-up vampire spoof falls flat

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By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / September 2, 2010

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Oh, the many pesky issues that can tear apart a rock band. The frontman’s itch to “explore solo projects.’’ The drummer’s jealousy that he’s not the frontman. Or, for the wannabe superstars of “Suck,’’ the group’s growing resentment of its bassist, who rockets them all toward the big time not because she can flat out play, but because she’s a vampire.

Writer-director-rocker Rob Stefaniuk’s indie isn’t to be confused with the current “Twilight’’-glomming insta-spoof “Vampires Suck’’ — but that doesn’t mean it’s an altogether sharper comedy, either.

Stefaniuk casts himself as Joey, lead singer of the Winners, a band that feels like mostly the opposite after too many years slogging from Montreal to Buffalo to Scranton for one thankless club gig after another. Smarmy manager Jeff (Dave Foley) is useless. Then bassist Jennifer (Jessica Paré) takes off after a show with a beyond-goth stranger (Dimitri Coats, of Philadelphia hard-rock act Burning Brides). She turns up at the next stop with alabaster skin, iridescent turquoise eyes, and a sudden gift for mesmerizing a crowd, not to mention her bandmates.

You get the idea that the vampire vibe here is meant to be legitimately arresting, comedy or no — but wild-haired Coats’s makeup job looks like “True Blood’’-meets-the Mad Hatter, and Paré’s is pretty over the top, as well. There’s also an awful lot of material that amateurishly drags as the band tours on, with a parade of moonlighting rock notables reminding us why they’re not movie stars (or why they need better direction, at least). Alice Cooper turns up as a bartender from the dark side, Iggy Pop is a seen-it-all record producer, and Henry Rollins (“Sons of Anarchy’’) is a hard-talking radio host.

Still, as director, Stefaniuk clearly wants to do more than just metaphorically churn out the same old sound. (That’s literally true of offbeat Winners tunes like “This Is Your Brain on Drugs.’’) Malcolm McDowell might just be punching in as vampire-hunting crank Eddie Van Helsing, but Stefaniuk gives him a back story complete with digitally tweaked scenes from 1973’s “O Lucky Man!’’ Moby is amusingly cast against type as the scary lead singer of a Judas Priest-y headlining act. And the movie has some pointless fun with transitional bits by posing the band in fleeting re-creations of iconic album covers: “Abbey Road,’’ “The Kids Are Alright,’’ “Born in the U.S.A.’’

Some of the creative stuff even stays on topic. In one jarringly funny scene, Paré’s vamp gets all wound up by a convenience store’s cherry slush machines, then violently orders up a human Slurpee. We’re fairly sure that’s a new one for the vampire genre — and for the “Movies That Rock’’ genre, too.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.

SUCK

Written and directed by: Rob Stefaniuk

Starring: Stefaniuk, Jessica Paré, Dimitri Coats, Dave Foley, and Malcolm McDowell

At: Regent Theatre, Arlington

Running time: 111 minutes

Rated: R (vampire violence and gore, language, and drug material)

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