My Sucky Teen Romance (2011)

My Sucky Teen RomanceStarring Elaine Hurt, Devin Bonnée, Patrick Delgado

Directed by Emily Hagins

Granted, if you’re not a longtime Austinite who has followed the rise of My Sucky Teen Romance’s wunderkind director Emily Hagins, the emotional impact of last night’s SXSW world premiere at the historic Paramount Theatre might not hit you fully.

Directing her first feature, Pathogen, at age twelve, the now eighteen-year-old Hagins is the youngest filmmaker to ever debut a film at the festival. The crowd gave the understandably overwhelmed Hagins a standing ovation before the film even began, and hometown pride was evident with a genuine sense of community on display. Everyone chipped in to help the indie flick, and local filmmakers and bloggers permeate the background of My Sucky Teen Romance, allowing for more cameos than a Joe Estevez movie. The night was a very special one, and the movie is a delightful teen horror comedy that pokes fun at Twilight and fully embraces its inner nerd.

Set during a fictional horror/sci-fi convention called Space Con, the film follows Kate (Elaine Hurt) and her friends as they stroll pass the booths and explore the hotel hallways housing the Con during Kate’s last weekend in town.

Everyone is in costume except for one – a real vampire named Vince (Devin Bonnée) who calls himself Edward (an obvious Twilight dig) and has already transformed a couple of Kate’s friends into bloodsuckers before the Con begins. Kate has her eyes set on one of the unlucky teens named Paul (Patrick Delgado), who incidentally happens to be dressed as Dracula during the Con. Paul is smitten, too, and accidentally bites Kate instead of landing the awkward kiss he originally intended. The rest of the film focuses on rescuing Kate before she fully transforms into a nightwalker, thereby damning her to an eternity of torment.

The film is very sure-footed and well made given its budget and the fact that it was made by teens: It’s funny, it’s endearing, and exhibits a homemade sweetness that gives My Sucky Teen Romance its charm. The humor is, however, front-loaded with the second half shifting to a more dramatic tone that spins into melodrama only because the kids are just too young to give it the emotional weight needed.

Instead, the ending is incredibly sweet but doesn’t deliver the payoff that the laughs do throughout the film. Once Hagins and company get a little older and wiser, they’re going to be a force to reckon with in the indie film scene. With flares of Kevin Smith’s earlier work in Mallrats and Chasing Amy, My Sucky Teen Romance is definitely a solid rental and the perfect film to show your kids if you’re ready to introduce them to the world of horror geekdom.

3 out of 5

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Drew Tinnin