The horror comedy is a beast easy to break and fickle to tame. When it's done right, the mixture of laughter and white knuckles can be a blissful, riotous night at the movies. When it's done wrong, however, well, you end up walking out of the theater with a white-knuckled clenched fist. And as we all know by now, the horror comedy is broken far more often than it's tamed.

That said, SXSW is batting a thousand this year. Their midnight slate kicked off with the highly amusing and blood-splatter loving Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, kept things going with the note-perfect Australian wunderkind The Loved Ones, and then capped things off rather nicely with Suck, a fun and charming little import from Canada about a struggling band that coincidentally begins to find an audience once one of their band members starts fearing the sunlight and starts living off the blood of groupies and roadies. Now before you let out a justifiable groan at the idea of yet another vampire movie, you should know two things about Rob Stefaniuk's film.

First, despite changing a few of the long-standing rules (daylight is not fatal, for one), Suck is, in a coy way, actually respectful of its vampiric lineage. Stefaniuk makes no attempt to justify their existence in some newfangled way. They could just as easily be evolutionary descendants of the days of Dracula. And on top of that, one of the band members even takes on the eager-to-please, bug eating role of Renfield; a role most riffs on the classic tale end up excising.
Second, in a lot of ways Suck is directly making fun of the throngs of blind devotees who will turn out for anything even pretending to be vampire in nature. That's a paradox, sure, given there are throngs of people who will in turn see Suck purely because it's about vampires, but what makes that wonderful is that the Hot Topic-minded will be oblivious to the ways in which it mocks the fans who clambered onto the vampire boat only after Tru Blood made it cool and sexy. They'll nod along hypnotically and buy the CD afterward, just as all the bone-dry fans in the film do.

That alone makes me chuckle, but it certainly helps that the film itself is funny. Not only is it outfitted with a cast of old favorites - Dave Foley as the hapless band manager and Malcolm McDowell as vamp hunter Eddie Van Hellsing are both great, but Moby (yes, that Moby) as the leader singer of a rock band called Secretary of Steaks, whose fans pelt the stage with raw meat, may be my favorite of the lot - but the fresh faces all have appreciable chemistry between them. Jessica Paré, Chris Ratz, Paul Anthony, and Rob Stefaniuk are all memorable and charming in their own ways, so hats off to the casting department for finding up and coming actors who don't all look like leftovers from the CW's central casting department.

A second tip of the hat goes straight to Stefaniuk, the multitasking writer/director/lead who managed to keep things fresh and interesting at regular intervals. There are a few thin spots where momentum sags or a musical interlude goes on a hair too long, but Stefaniuk is always ready to resuscitate things with either a clever blood-spilling gag or a unique stylish spin on otherwise Canadian flat underpinnings. Is it going to re-revolutionize people's opinions of vampire movies and horror comedies? No, but I also don't think that was anywhere near the goal here. I think Stefaniuk set out to make a very specific horror comedy about a broad topic and I think he more or less made his shot, even if the ball does circle the rim a few times, threatening to roll back out.

At the very least, Suck, even though it's a comedy, should reclaim for horror fans an inch of the vampire ground we lost in the war with That Which Will Not Be Named.
categories Reviews, Horror