Sucker (Short, 2006)
Directed by Mark Steensland
It's every parent's hope that they have properly prepared their children for the world's wonders as well as its hazards. Be it keeping their elbows off the dinner table or looking both ways before crossing the street, children are bombarded from very early ages with lesson after lesson to keep them respectful and safe.
As parents we can only do so much to protect our children from the unavoidable dangers of life. We turn the handles in on the stove, we cover the electrical outlets with little plastic caps, we buckle seatbelts, and we bundle up little bodies to shield them from the cold. But there always comes a time when our babies grow up and we aren't right by their sides to guide them. They walk out the door with hardly a backward glance, never fully comprehending the instant anxiety that they are leaving in their wake. It is at these times when we have to trust that our lessons have been heard.
One of the most important instructions parents will ever relay to their child is to be wary of strangers. No matter where or what kind of neighborhood you live in, there is always the risk of some pedophile or other type of predator lurking around the corner or loitering in the playground or cruising your street in hopes of snagging his next victim. There is no way of knowing when or where the next one will strike, and there is no telling who will fall prey to these hideous beasts. All you know is that once your children are tucked safely in their beds at the end of each evening, you can breathe a bit easier… at least until the next time they leave your sight.
Sucker preys on the most visceral of all parental fears.
You are powerless to do anything but watch as a young girl is lured into a vehicle by a sly stranger who promises nothing more than candy. A sense of utter hopelessness fills your being, much like the feeling you get while watching a crocodile silently stalk the thirsty, young zebra in a documentary.
The camera closes in on the little girl's mouth as she savors a bright red sucker, and the image is beyond uncomfortable… A soft muzzle seeks out the cool refreshment of the placid pool before it. All too close, the crocodile's eyes are barely visible above the surface of the murky water.
The car doors lock and the sound makes your guts lurch as you wonder if your own child would be so easily tempted into such a deadly situation… The croc glides beneath the water being careful to keep its full mass concealed.
With calculated wile the monster drives the girl to a remote location, hiding his true intent under the guise of a flimsy promise… Patiently the hungry reptile waits until it is presented with the perfect moment to strike.
The man leads the innocent child to a secluded spot in order to carry out his devious plan, and she plays right into the trap he has set… The zebra steps a tiny striped leg into the deeper water, blissfully unaware of the peril that lurks just below the shimmering surface while the crocodile's body tenses with anticipation.
Weapon in hand, the sinister monster looms above the distracted girl's figure and readies himself for the delicious payoff of his sweet deception… Lunging from the water with a surge of power, the great reptile opens its lethal jaws and takes aim at the unprotected throat of its prey.
The air is sucked from your lungs and the bile rises in your gullet as you wait for the sickening punch line to this despicable joke. You prepare yourself for the fact that you are about to witness the demise of the tiny, helpless creature in front of you as the crocodile's goes into its inevitable death roll.
And all you can do is watch…
From its hopeful beginning to its twisted end, Sucker takes you on a disquieting ride that leads you on a brief journey into the world of a malicious marauder. It builds tension with a situation that makes your blood run cold. You have no desire to watch what is going to happen; yet, you can't seem to look away. A morbid curiosity makes you want to see it through to the final frame. All you know is that this creep is going to get away with the most heinous of crimes and you want nothing more than to see him thwarted.
Mark Steensland (read our interview with him here) is the director who orchestrated this taboo tale. His approach to the loathsome subject matter is tactful enough to keep most of his audience in their seats. Of course no matter how delicately it is handled, the act of preying on children can cause offense to some individuals. Personally I can tolerate a lot of sick shit in cinema, but when it comes to messing with kids, I can only take so much before I get upset or pissed.
Steensland skates the borders of offensiveness when he focuses on the young actress' mouth as she eats a sucker. This imagery may be uncomfortable enough to watch, but knowing the revolting man behind the wheel is getting his "jollys" from it makes your skin crawl. The camera lingers just long enough to cause the desired reaction and then gives mild relief until you realize the view is now of the pleasure in this freak's expression. It takes you to a whole new level of Icky! Without it though, the film would not be nearly as effective.
Camille Jones plays the little girl who is ensnared by the stranger played by Shannon Solo. The two actors do fairly well in portraying their characters although there are certain lines that are almost wooden in their delivery by Solo and Jones is nearly too sweet and naïve at times, both of which may have been fully intended by the director. There is also a poorly set up shot that robs the scene of its tension and credibility. Unfortunately I found these faults distracting from the overall mood of the film, and while they are not huge in the grand scheme of things, the movie is far too brief to completely recover from even the most simple of disruptions.
Sucker is like its namesake in more ways than one. It only lasts a short while; with a running time of barely eight minutes, it delivers just enough to satisfy a viewer's sweet tooth, but only if you are lucky enough to get a flavor you like under the wrapper covered with question marks. It's a cinematic gob of artificially colored icky-sweetness atop a sturdy stick of celluloid that leaves a gooey residue on your mind. Try as you might to wash your hands of it, you will most likely find one little spot you missed that will remind you of your prior indulgence long after you've finished.
3 1/2 out of 5
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