When Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for The Hurt Locker, it was the first win for a female director and was a huge watermark for female filmmakers. But Bigelow didn’t win because she was a woman, she won because she did a damn fine job directing her film. Emily Hagins has received praise because she’s made three feature films and she’s barely nineteen years old. While it’s an impressive feat at any age, it doesn’t really matter if the films aren’t any good. My Sucky Teen Romance is an anti-Twilight vampire story, about teens at a comic convention who are plagued by vampires and awkward romance. It’s charming as hell, perfectly tailored to a Nickelodeon-type crowd, with just the right amount of cynicism and sweetness. Hagins keeps her f-bomb deployment under the requisite three, and they are terrifically well-placed. It’s not overly-sexualized like a “Gossip Girl” or “Pretty Little Liars,” but it’s also not totally sanitized like a Disney special. As a filmmaker, Hagins does an equally fine job, beyond her accomplishing this task at such a young age. There are some minor faults, but those will mostly likely iron out with maturity as she continues to hone her craft.
My Sucky Teen Romance is a clever little romance about geeky teens gathering at SpaceCon, a comic convention which has the theme of vampires. Hagins seems almost aggressive in her take down of Twilight, up to her swarthy vampire villain who stalks the night with Robert Pattinson’s dullard glaze. The first person we see as pro-Twilight is a middle aged mom, which is subtle dig that most spoof filmmakers have yet to learn. To explain the plot is complex, but the story itself isn’t complicated. Two boys are crushing on the same girl, people start accidentally becoming vampires, and they all have to figure out how to stop the death and destruction as well as cure their friend who’s become a vampire. It’s pretty much what you’d see in any sort of Nickelodeon scheming — unrequited love, unsurprising layout, awkward kissing. Except these aren’t your sparkly vampires. While the first gore effect seems like it’s going to dictate some cheesy level of backyard karo bloodpacks, it quickly elevates to guts and geysers. Sunlight doesn’t make them beautiful, it turns them into brisket. Hagins cut her teeth on doing horror films, and while she’s not playing for spattersploitation, she’s not squeamish with gushing jugulars.
Perhaps her nicest feat is gathering the backing of the local Austin film community, right down to the bloggers. Harry Knowles makes a cameo as a loudmouthed vampire expert, but several other film writers pop up in the hallways of the con, including Brian Kelley, Luke Mullen, and assorted other folks who’s names I’m not matching to the face. Peter S. Hall even helped to produce the film. It works for the film, because most film bloggers are the bearded, balding, bespectacled fellas you’d expect to see at a comic convention, with the exception of Todd Gilchrist, who has gorgeous hair. While the film community can be insular and cliquish and descend upon the weak like a slavering pack of starving jackals, it’s nice to see them come together in support of a young filmmaker. As much fun as it drop the hammer on a shitty film, most film bloggers would rather champion a new talent.
Emily Hagins is a decent filmmaker, setting a nice balance between foam-padded children’s programming and the salacious T&A buffet of most CW offerings. Let alone the fact that she’s pulled this off before snagging her high school diploma. She’s been cranking out projects since she was eleven, and I’m curious to see what will happen once she gets into the Hollywood meat grinder. Hopefully, she’ll be able to retain her voice and get even better with age. But right now, she’s doing a damn fine job, and My Sucky Teen Romance is a nice counterpoint to the slavering sparkletards that typically represent teen vampire entertainment.