Warren Cantrell reviews a new indie film from the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival:
Most of the reviews for My Sucky Teen Romance have centered around director Emily Hagins’ age (19), and how this movie is quite the achievement considering the talent involved. Yet that’s bullshit, and low-grade dookie at that. If the kid wants to submit her cutesy student film into a contest that caters specifically to hackneyed productions shot in mom’s backyard, then she should have at it. Yet if Hagins feels like rolling the dice and entering her picture into a festival with other professionally made offerings that aren’t God-awful, then she should brace herself for an ass-kicking, which is what she’s going to get here today.
This is a bad movie, folks, bad in a cringe-heavy, feel-kinda-bad-except-you-don’t-cause-you-wasted-hard-earned-money sort of way. The acting is so ghastly that one might begin to feel amused if not for the realization that this exercise in pedantic, half-assed filmmaking cost somebody some serious cash: an investment that might have otherwise been used to fight malaria, feed the homeless, or purchase a sack of hammers. Any of these other pursuits would have been more worthwhile than financing this total mess of a picture, which suffers from a jangled, incomplete narrative, transparently thin characters, and again (sorry to harp), acting that is so woefully miserable that it’s often painful to watch.
The picture starts off in a flashback, only to then toss its audience into the modern day by throwing a four-way phone conversation into the mix without any set-up or introduction for its main characters. Already off-balance because of this frantic set-up, one that makes an episode of Gossip Girl seem like high-art, the movie then shifts into a scene with one of its main characters, Paul (Patrick Delgado), who like everyone else, is thrust into the movie without any back story except what is gleaned during the ham-fisted four-way telephone crossfire.
Paul is a high school comic dork that works at a convenience store, a set up that allows him to meet Kate (Elaine Hurt), who shares an awkward moment with the boy at his job before leaving. It’s right around this point that the “plot” starts to rev up, for Paul has a brief encounter with a legitimate blood-sucker, which leads to his and his co-worker’s transformations into vampires (or, well, vampires-to-be). Now, this aborted robbery and impromptu neck-suck might have been worth focusing upon, yet the director’s severe A.D.D. takes control of the picture for what’s the first of several similar hijackings [sigh], and things shift into a lower shit-gear from here.
Seemingly unable to decide who she wants her movie to be about, director Emily Hagins abandons the Paul narrative for the Kate track, which is a refreshing change of pace until the audience realizes that Elaine Hurt is just as lousy an actor as Patrick Delgado. Though they don’t know each other, Paul and Kate bump into one another once again at a local comic-horror convention, and develop an immediate connection, one Paul can’t help but to ruin by accidentally biting Kate on the neck.
My Sucky Teen Romance unfolds from here, as Kate enlists her dorky horror film-buff friends to help her cope with her Draculian transformation, and hopefully find a way to overcome it. A somewhat interesting premise, the uninspired, rote dialogue delivered by “actors” that seem more like a collection of the director’s closest friends submarine a picture that is already hampered by halting cuts and shoddy scene transitions. To make matters worse, the set designs border on offensive, for it appears as if the only attempts to dress the scenes involved a trip to Target, and a weekend with cardboard, glue sticks, and an 18 pack magic marker set.
Perhaps worst of all, the movie seems to hint at some larger, genre-wide commentary regarding the state of horror films and the vampire sub-set therein, yet every attempt to tie My Sucky Teen Romance into the broader cinematic tradition fails miserably. With the exception of a quick reference to Paul’s last name as Renfield, there isn’t much in the way of sly reference or subtle homage to the classic vampiric tropes of the past. Though the script takes a few swipes at the recent Twilight insanity, My Sucky Teen Romance also models its lead vampire’s visual look on that Pattinson’s Edward character, something the film tries (and fails) to explain away during a rushed exposition scene drawing out that character’s background and motivations.
A cheap, uninspired, poorly made waste of time with a by-the-numbers plot and amateur-hour acting, My Sucky Teen Romance doesn’t do much with its characters, and as a result, is something a person could watch with half of one eye open whilst still getting the gist. Seriously, this is the kind of movie a person should watch (if they have to) while they are doing their taxes.
An entertaining romp down memory lane for director Emily Hagins and her friends, who no doubt enjoy the hell out of this fancy-looking “movie” stocked to capacity with all their favorite inside jokes, it is a slog for any serious filmgoer. This is especially true for anyone attending a film festival, like this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, where My Sucky Teen Romance is playing: lined up against professional fare from filmmakers not in high school, filmmakers who write actual scripts, hire real actors, and rely on more than just the novelty of their age for kind reviews.