Directed by Emily Hagins
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
You may remember Emily Hagins as the young filmmaker who directed a feature length horror movie at the age of twelve (twelve!). After being profiled in the 2009 documentary Zombie Girl, she followed up her debut feature Pathogen with a creepy ghost story entitled The Retelling. Now, after tackling both shamblers and spirits, Hagins focuses on vampires with her third feature film – the bitey teenage rom-com My Sucky Teen Romance.
Before leaving town for good, seventeen-year-old Kate is going to spend her final weekend with her best friend, Allison, at SpaceCon, a local sci-fi/horror convention. There, Kate meet-cutes Paul – a nice, quiet guy and fellow nerd who happens to be dressed as a vampire. Also, he actually is a vampire. It seems Paul was recently turned into one of the undead by a ‘50s-era rockabilly vamp named Vince, and now the two (three, if you count Paul’s recently turned co-worker) are spending the weekend blending in with the costumed crowds while scouting potential victims. When Paul accidentally nips Kate’s neck, the poor smitten girl finds herself slowly turning into a Twilighter. With the help of her friends and a remorseful Paul, Kate sets about finding a way to kill head fanger Vince, which will hopefully restore her humanity before she fully (and irrevocably) changes into a vampire.
The movie excels in its opening act as it presents its teenage characters believably, especially when portraying those weird, awkward moments that define teenage puppy love. Both the dialogue and acting ring true, even as the film moves along at a brisk pace (the movie is nothing if not energetic). Romance also does a bang-up job of presenting a realistic horror/sci-fi convention, and it manages to take some pretty fun and wicked shots at Twilight and current teen culture.
Unfortunately, the vampire plot throws a monkey wrench into the film’s gears by the end of the first act, killing all of the goodwill the film had built up by that point. The action scenes are poorly staged, the teenagers are anything but believable when dealing with their newfound crisis, and the movie loses its pace, plodding along from one scene to the next throughout its brief running time.
While Hagins shows that she’s becoming more than capable behind the camera, she still needs a bit of work at honing her abilities as a screenwriter. Romance looks great, has some wonderfully comic moments (reminding me of early Robert Rodriguez), and has style and energy to spare. But the script fails with its lack of tonal consistency and characters that do not feel genuine (again, once the plot kicks in).
Dark Sky Films has given Romance a nice enough disc. The image is quite sharp, with the vibrant colors popping off the screen during some sequences. The audio, however, is a bit hit and miss. Some dialogue is overshadowed by the music and sound effects, and the overall aural presentation is merely adequate. The bonus features section is solid, though, giving us a feature commentary with Hagins and producer Paul Gandersman; a ten-minute behind-the-scenes doc featuring Hagins and the cast discussing the production at length; a deleted scene featuring more of Ain’t It Cool head honcho Harry Knowles’ cameo and the SpaceCon horror panel; a brief blooper reel featuring the cast having fun and goofing off; and the film’s fun theatrical trailer. Also included is Cupcakes, a two-minute short film directed by Hagins and featuring some of the cast of Romance. It’s brief and amusing and has a genuinely hilarious punchline. It may be the best thing on the disc.
While I may not have loved My Sucky Teen Romance, it is nice to see a young filmmaker maturing and gaining more confidence behind the camera. I cannot recommend this movie, but I will say that I’m still looking forward to Hagins’ next film, whatever that may be.
2 out of 5
3 out of 5