Before I discuss My Sucky Teen Romance, let me just say that what writer/director Emily Hagins has accomplished by her age is astounding. For such a young member of society to chase her dreams and begin polishing her craft so early on in life is truly astonishing. By age 12, the budding director had scored her first recognized film with Pathogen, an independent horror movie which caught the eye of Ain’t It Cool News founder and respected fanboy legend, Harry Knowles.
When I was 12 I couldn’t even figure out how not to be an awkward middle school student, let alone make a feature-length film. Hell, it took me until I turned 18 to even realize my love of film, and the writing didn’t come until years after.
Ms. Hagins is an inspiration for anyone with ambitious goals, showing even the most unlikely can persevere with a determined worth ethic and dedication towards mastering one’s craft.
With that said, let’s take a bite out of her widest release to date.
Usually I don’t bother with puffy horror comedies meant for teenyboppers who still have the struggles of being young, but Hagins’ circumstances had me intrigued. The film even made it all the way to SXSW in 2011 – a pretty awesome feat for such a young artist striving for greatness. Plus it casted Robert Rodriguez’s sister Tina in a role? With nothing to do on a lazy Tuesday night, I decided to support Hagins and give her film a rent.
Right off the bat, My Sucky Teen Romance makes it visibly clear you’ll be getting a low-budget film featuring unknown actors and toned down production, making it easy to adjust your expectations. Little things like computer printed signs and minimal extra work keep the glaring small time feel apparent throughout, but Hagins does the best she can within the constraints of such a budget. For some, this will be an early breaking point, not being able to compare with so many other immersive big budget films.
Following teenager Kate (Elaine Hurt) as she attends her last SPACEcon before moving away to college, she hopes to find a fun romantic fling to see her last weekend go out with a bang. Too bad she falls for a recently turned vampire named Paul (Patrick Delgado), who accidentally turns her into a vampire as well. From here, we watch Kate and her friends attempt to reverse the vampiric curse, because no one wants to go to college with pale skin and fangs!
I’ll admit it, I thought parts of My Sucky Teen Romance were juvenile fun. I commend Hagins for being able to create a generic Twilight-esque story while avoiding falling into the rubbish category so many wasteful copy-cats do. Spots of clear genre writing rip into the vampire craze as a whole, utilizing a satirical and witty tongue to cast a spell of dulled down realism as opposed to sparkly skin. Hagins displays a wonderful understanding of her beloved genre, a love that will grow and mature over time into something uniquely special given how many years of experience await her.
As for our equally young actors, I pass on the same encouragement I did to Hagins. There are parts where their actions seem wooden and unnatural, making My Sucky Teen Romance appear more like a bunch of friends got together to shoot a funny project, opposed to an actual production taking place for a financed feature film. Again, I’m not going to sit here and roast our youthful cast for not having the proper amount of time to hone their skills, but instead see the promise in what more years of experience can add.
Lead character Elaine Hurt is a perfect example of this thinking, not creating a dismissible character by any means though. Kate embodied the actions and thinking of a typical girl her age, even if she did appear a little young to be heading off to college in my eyes. The correct idea and feel existed for the character of Kate, possessing a quirky sense of awkward teen realism, but again you could tell she was a first time actress based on certain unnatural sequences of not quite polished performing. Given time and experience, there’s a ton of potential to notice, but it hasn’t quite been molded fully yet, the same going to every cast member.
My Sucky Teen Romance is an independent and personal accomplishment for director Emily Hagins, a stepping stone that will undoubtably lead to bigger and better things. It’s a cute, yes I just said cute, yet honest story about teen romances and friendship, only spiced up by the addition of blood and vampires. I really think younger generations will connect with this film on a much higher level as an entertainment experience, but true fans of filmmaking can appreciate the special spark that drives Hagins to achieve success doing what she loves.
Ultimately, this horror fan just wasn’t in mind when Hagins visualized her teen romance’s target market, but I believe everyone who’s interested should give My Sucky Teen Romance a try, if at the least to help secure Haigns’ future.
Given the proper budget, limitless resources, and professionally trained actors, there’s no telling what this little horror dynamo can pull off – and I can’t wait to see what’s next.