Title: My Sucky Teen Romance
Director: Emily Hagins
Starring: Elaine Hurt, Patrick Delgado and Santiago Dietche
My first introduction to the work of Emily Hagins was when I watched the documentary “Zombie Girl: The Movie”, which chronicled a 15 year old Emily and her attempt at making a feature length zombie movie. She didn’t have any prior movie making experience, and in fact, as the documentary tells us, had only been interested in the idea of making movies for a relatively short amount of time. What she might have lacked in experience, she more than made up for with an incredibly supportive family, plenty of friends who had open schedules, and possibly the biggest supporter, Harry Knowles. Even though her first film, “Pathogen”, wasn’t necessarily hailed by critics, people were blown away by the drive of this young girl and what she was able to pull together. Now Emily is about to turn 20, and her latest movie, “My Suck Teen Romance”, is already her third feature film.
Teenagers Kate (Elaine Hurt) and Paul (Patrick Delgado) are getting ready to attend SpaceCon, a fictional convention that’s attended by science fiction, comic book, and vampire enthusiasts. Kate’s also hoping to meet a boy and maybe get to have her first kiss, whereas Paul, after recently having a encounter with a vampire, is attending in hopes of blending in with all the other teenagers in costume. After a chance encounter, Kate and Paul strike up a romantic relationship, and Paul takes things to what he considers to be the next level: he bites Kate and she starts her transformation into a vampire. When Kate realizes what’s happened, she’s happy to be in a place with vampire experts, and as she slowly becomes more and more a vampire, Paul also realizes the error of his ways. Will Paul be able to give the girl he’s fallen for what she wants, or will Kate sacrifice her normal life to have the boyfriend she’s always wanted?
Emily Hagins has written, directed, and produced more movies than I have, THREE more movies than I have, to be exact, and for her to accomplish so much at such a young age, I must commend her. However, can her age be a caveat when it comes to adequately analyzing her body of work? So many times I have told someone about something I don’t like that’s considered a “classic”, only to have someone mention “…but when it came out, it was revolutionary!” Despite that additional information, shouldn’t everything be judged on its own merit? If I say that I wasn’t that big of a fan of My Sucky Teen Romance, will someone then say “…but she’s only 20 years old, and this is her third movie!” This review is not a critique on her passion, her drive, and her ability to create feature length movies, but if these movies aren’t good, then what does it matter?
The whole story, and especially the incorporation of the convention aspect, is all very cute. I don’t use the term “cute” to try and sound condescending, I use the word to let people know that this is essentially a romantic comedy that happens to revolve around a nerdy pop culture convention. Giving the characters a checklist of the typical vampiric “symptoms” that acts as a countdown to when Kate will become a full-blown vampire was a successful plot device, and the way things play out are different from expected. I’m not sure how old Emily was when she wrote this, but it did seem somewhat mature for someone who I assume was in high school at the time, however, it’s evident that it was written by someone in high school. There was a “Teen Mixer” event taking place at the convention which had creepy older men in attendance, something I’m sure Emily has had to deal with in promotion of her previous films, but other than that, there are barely any adult characters. It comes across more like a group of kids who found their parents video camera while they were away for a weekend than it does a teenager trying to give opportunities to people her age. As far as the acting goes, the cast did exactly as good of a job as you would imagine you could get from young, relatively inexperienced actors with a tiny budget.
Even though Hagins’s writing might not be one of her strengths, and even though the whole look of the film showed off its lack of budget, there were glimpses of her growth as a filmmaker. Although I haven’t seen her first film, “Pathogen”, start to finish, the footage that I have seen wasn’t all that impressive. Even though “My Suck Teen Romance” had affordable camerawork, there were glimpses at some of the bigger ideas that Hagins wanted to accomplish but couldn’t, due to limited budget. The special effects of a scene where a vampire gets shot and the wound immediately heals in front of our eyes were impressive, or maybe the scene where the characters are comparing Kate’s descent into a vampire of being like a videogame and we get to see a few segments of a fictional videogame that highlighted Hagins’s creativity and eyes for details. It seemed as though she had made some good friends in the industry who were happy to help with the special effects and do animation, so I think if she was able to make a few more friends in the industry or maybe get a bigger budget to be able to pay people for these abilities, Emily could make for a very fun and energetic director.
Now we circle back to the matter at hand: what is the quality of this young writer/director’s work, regardless of her age? As mentioned, she does have some friends who were willing to help her make this movie, but for the most part, looking through the credits, she did things on her own. Whether that was due to budgetary constraints or maybe the fact that she just didn’t want handouts, I can’t say, but the small budget definitely shows in the acting talent and the cinematography. The story wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I’m sure it would appeal much more to a younger, female crowd, which makes perfect sense, seeing as Emily is younger, and more female than I am. Despite her lack of a budget, Emily was able to showcase some of her directorial skills, and even though this film wasn’t really for me, I look forward to seeing her grow as a filmmaker.