The Suckling Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Written and directed by Francis Teri
1990, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 26th, 2019
Lisa Peturno as Girl
Tim Martin Crouse as Bill
Frank Reeves as Axel
Janet Sovey as Big Mama
Gerald Preger as Sherman
Michael Gingold as The Suckling
Susan Brodsky as Sheryl
Bill and his girlfriend are facing an unexpected pregnancy. She wants to keep the baby and put it up for adoption, but he has other plans. They visit a local house of ill repute, a back alley abortion clinic/ brothel run by a woman known as Big Mama. The girl is taken into the back for what she believes is only a consultation, but she is drugged and once unconscious receives an abortion. The rather large fetus is flushed down the toilet where it ends up in the sewer under a leaking barrel of toxic waste. While his girlfriend recovers, Bill hangs out with the regulars, including some prostitutes, a pair of guys providing muscle and an occasional customer. Over the next few hours, the fetus grows into a ravenous, bloodthirsty monster that travels through the house’s plumbing. The doors and windows are all sealed with a placenta-like membrane and cannot be breached. The creature begins killing the inhabitants and growing in size after each meal. Can they work together long enough to find a way out or will they kill each other off faster than the monster can get its hands on them?
The Suckling is an icky movie that is pure exploitation sleaze. The premise is deliberately salacious and is fair game from a horror standpoint, but the characters are all unlikeable cretins. Anyone vaguely appealing is dispatched early on, leaving us with a bunch of bickering idiots. Our big-hearted heroine sleeps through a good portion of the events and her character is never once identified by name. Many of the supporting players are gruff types determined to let you know how insensitive they are – until it is their turn to face the monster. It is difficult to feel compassion for the imminent victim if they have been nothing but an asshole every minute leading up to this moment. People make bone-headed decisions because the script forces them and they repeatedly turn on each other leaving viewers rooting for the creature.
The plot is minimal and the acting atrocious, but that is not why people turn to a movie like this. We want to see an ugly mutant doing horrific things to a bunch of dimwitted meat suits. On this front the picture succeeds, as the monster does look pretty cool. Starting off life as a combination of animatronic puppet and stop-motion creation, the little beastie streaks through the plumbing system and kills with its lively tentacles. It hides under beds and crawls through the walls as it steadily grows into a man-in-a-suit variety monster – played by future Fangoria magazine editor Michael Gingold. The monster is all teeth and claws and is impervious to bullets and other physical attacks. It doesn’t ration or quip, instead it just kills out of pure rage – exactly as it should.
Written and directed by Francis Teri, The Suckling is a deliberate attempt to garner a reaction to the hot button topic of abortion. Teri claims in his interview on this disc that he didn’t set out to make a pro-life monster movie, but rather wanted to get a jolt out of audiences. His message is heavy-handed but makes for fine exploitation fare. The people occupying the house are the real monsters and more often than not deserve what they get. Our heroine does nothing wrong and yet she suffers a cruel fate that is both shocking and darkly amusing. Outside of some cool creature moments, the picture fails to deliver anything resembling suspense or terror, instead focusing on endless sequences of walking around, frequent squabbling and self-sabotage by a bunch of blockheads. Those looking for trashy fun will find something to like, but casual viewers may want to give this one a wide berth.
Video and Audio:
The original 16mm camera negative has received a 2K scan and been digitally restored for this Blu-ray debut. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture looks pretty respectable given its low-budget limitations. Colors are strong and there is some small-object detail, although grain can be heavy at times.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix gets the job done and remains clean and free from hiss or other distortion. Dialogue levels are clear and well-balanced with music cues.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Fetus (13 minutes), monster performer Michael Gingold reflects on his time in the suit. He shares anecdotes from the set and how the picture has followed him over the past thirty years. He reveals information about the film’s limited theatrical release and home video debut and mentions some of the press it received at the time. Gingold is a welcome addition to any release and this interview is a lot of fun.
In an all-new interview (12 minutes), writer/ director Francis Teri talks about his influences and the challenges of making an independent film. He reveals some of the more difficult sequences to shoot and also his experience working with special effects. He goes on to discuss the public reaction upon release and the lessons he learned along the way.
A photo gallery (3 minute) slideshow set to the main theme features behind-the-scenes images, publicity shots, script pages, poster art and press coverage.
The theatrical trailer has not been included.
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