Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In short: The Suckling (1990)

Brooklyn in the early 70s. Her boyfriend convinces a pregnant high school students to accompany him to the local combination illegal abortion hole/bordello. She isn't too sure about the whole abortion thing, so the visit is supposed to be more about checking the place out than anything else, but in truth, dearest boyfriend has everything arranged to knock her out and end the pregnancy right now. The foetus lands in the toilet and the poor girl crying on a couch.

This being Brooklyn, the sewers are somewhat toxic, it seems. Obviously, toxic waste can only turn a potentially dead foetus into a hungry little monster. Newly reborn, the little one's first off crawling up the toilet again and munching off a prostitute head, then baby closes down the building's exits with an unpleasantly fleshy looking mass that's as good as cement. Then the munching can really begin - one needs carbs to grow into a larger (and awfully cute) rubber monster, right?

Baby's victims squabble, have break downs and are incompetent until only Mummy is still alive. Then it's back to the womb for Baby, and off to the asylum for Mummy. You can probably imagine the kicker ending.

I'm probably throwing away the last bit of respect any regular reader of this blog might still have for me when I admit that I found The Suckling pretty entertaining in its slightly malformed and mightily misguided form. I can't help but see Francis Teri's only film as something of a swan song to local independent horror film.

At least, the film carries more of the trademarks of that type of film than your typical direct-to-video production of the time. There's the semi-professional acting, ranging from wooden to pretty effective in its completely unnatural way to who the hell put this guy in front of a camera; Teri's sometimes imaginative, sometimes horrible, always personal direction style that loves nothing as much as showing scenes from ill-advised yet often strangely effective angles; a script that tries its hardest to treat a ridiculous set-up and papier-mâché characters seriously, as if they were as dramatic and important as any canonical stage play you'd care to mention, only to take a break from this earnestness from time to time to put in ill-fitting horror fan homages to films like Alien and the obvious Night of the Living Dead (too bad The Suckling does not go through with the competent black hero it promises for a few minutes), humour of the most annoying kind, or the plain nastiness the basic monster concept would suggest for the whole film.

All these elements together sure don't make for a "good" or "worthy" or "intelligent" film, but they show an enthusiasm - and even a bit of talent - for making a horror movie, even if the money and the experience's not there, that makes it impossible for me to dislike the strange abomination this film is. There's an earnestness about The Suckling that makes it much more endearing than any winking at the audience could ever do. This film about a murderous foetus has heart, and isn't afraid to show it.


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