AUGUST 22, 2012
A while back I watched Zombie Girl, a fine documentary about a 12 year old girl named Emily Hagins who was making a feature film. I never did see the actual movie she made (Pathogen), but My Sucky Teen Romance is actually her third feature, and by all accounts her most accomplished yet. While clearly stretching its budget at times, it's a charming, good-natured horror comedy about vampires invading a sci-fi convention, and ultimately just as endearing as Hagins' own story.
The best jokes in the movie were the ones poking fun at Twilight, as our villain is a dead ringer for Edward Cullen, and Twi-fans are depicted as, well, idiots. There's a great bit where Harry Knowles (yes, the real Harry) berates a girl for asking if a real vampire could ever love her, and I loved the sight gag of another girl wandering around the convention tossing sparkles (glitter) on everyone, much to the disgust of our main characters, whose tastes are a bit more refined. The low budget keeps anything specific at bay, so all the comics and such that we see are made up, making the Twilight gags even better as it comes off as the film's only real target.
But Hagins and her team put some effort into fleshing out this world, with a couple of clips of a pretty bad horror movie called Killer Roadkill, about a Were-madillo, as well as a full sequence from a game that looks like a cross between Double Dragon and Ghosts n' Goblins (which, if it existed back in the 8bit days, I would totally play). The heroine and her would-be lover also share a love of a comic book (name escapes me, but I recall it being similar to "Max Payne" for some reason), and it looks like they put a full issue together. I don't know what the budget was (from what I understand it was a crowd-sourced film), but it seems to me that most of it went to creating a con from scratch. That it actually looks more fleshed out and interesting than some actual cons I've been to (Supernatural Convention, I'm looking at you) is damned impressive.
And I don't know if impressed is the right word, but I was certainly surprised by the occasional F-bombs and a couple of kind of gory murders in the film, as I thought it was rated PG. The first time I figured I just heard the guy wrong and he was saying "fugg", but as they continued to pop up at random (including Knowles' offering) I knew it wasn't just my ears. As for the gore, there isn't much in the way of violence, as most of the movie focuses on the budding relationship between its two leads, solving the mystery of who the vampire is, and things like that, but they make em count when they happen.
The cutesy romance stuff was fine. I'm not really the target audience - profanity and occasional gore shots aside this is aimed at the younger set - but there was a breezy, somewhat Hughes-ian charm to it all, and it was great to see actual teens playing the teen characters for a change, not to mention actually talking like them instead of someone trying to approximate and coming up with alien gibberish (My Soul To Take comes to mind). The romance between the two leads seemed to be missing a beat, however - they meet at the store where he works, and then a few minutes later he encounters the bad guy (and bitten off-screen, making it temporarily confusing when we see him as a full vampire later), and the next time they meet they're quite comfortable with each other, as if they were old pals. I don't know if budget kept them from filming every page of the script (it's quite a short movie, just over 75 minutes with credits), but it feels like they are racing to get to the convention, somewhat at the expense of character development. But then again, Hagins cited Scott Pilgrim as an influence, so we should be thankful that the movie is even coherent.
Technically the movie was solid as well. The sound was a bit "quiet" at times, like there wasn't any room tone or whatever, but it was possibly the sound system of the "theater", which was the Cinespace in Hollywood. It's basically just a bar with a converted screening room, an odd place to hold a premiere for a movie where neither the filmmaker nor most of the cast would be able to enter on a regular basis. Anyway, it was well shot and edited, and looked professional, which is more than I can say about movies like Beneath The Mississippi (directed by a guy who has been in the business since before Hagins was even born).
I wouldn't recommend the movie for those who are seeking a full blown horror-comedy in the vein of Fright Night or Suck, but if you enjoy things like Sixteen Candles and/or can appreciate a sweet coming-of-age tale with a little genre enthusiasm thrown in, it should be right up your alley. The DVD is coming soon (and has bonus features), and it's available now on Amazon's demand service, so if you fit that description - enjoy!
What say you?