Saturday, 2 July 2016

Watching: The Suckling (1990)

B-movies, or in some cases Z-movies, are like campfire stories, relying on one gross and shocking moment to get you what is generally a poorly told story. Released in 1990, Francis Teri's The Suckling (aka Sewage Baby) finds itself steeping in the less terrifying end of the body horror genre, and you will find yourself enduring some terrible editing and acting just to get to the moment you'll be telling all your friends about.

The story is told in flashback form, where we find our lead couple going to a seedy rundown brothel-cum-abortion clinic to get rid of their second trimester baby, against the girls wishes. A lady called Big Momma, who looks like a cross between Beetlejuice and Divine, performs this abortion, and orders her assistant to flush it down the toilet. We see the fetus go down the tunnels like a water fun slide, and, wouldn't you know it, toxic waste has been seeping into the sewer, which rapidly turns the unwanted baby into a raging beast, complete with claws and a prehensile umbilical cord, set on destroying everyone in this whore house.

While it does go pretty fast for its 89 minutes, the films more shocking elements, and the parts you really want to see, are spread sparsely throughout. The topless, axe-wielding nurse is enough to titillate, but is just a cameo in a dream sequence, and while the business man with the dildo and propeller beanie may provide a little humour, he quickly transpires to be slut-shaming arsehole that lasts way too long.

It took Teri a year and a half to raise the funds for this film, and its clear that most of those funds went on the costume for the Suckling. Indeed, the moments that you see this creature are the moments this film is worth watching it for; a construction that looks like a three-way love child between a Xenomorph, a praying mantis and the films unfortunate protagonist, looking like a project Blue Peter would make for Halloween.

While there are a couple of scenes of the creature's umbilical cord popping the head off of a couple of people, you never see it truly attack anyone, mainly due to the directors apprehension in actually showing the suit attacking anyone (and fears, I can imagine, of damaging it). The editing is particularly poor in some places, where fight scenes look truly disconnected between cuts, like they've not even landed a hit. A gun that is repeatedly used through the film doesn't even look like its being fired.

The films ending is really where the films notoriety comes into play. The Suckling has enveloped the house, in parts, inside a giant placenta. You'd expect a placenta to be, well, kind of wet and bloody, but here we find the dildo-businessman trapped inside something resembling a blanket fort - a detail that's quite discombobulating, and does nothing to establish any continuity. After everyone else dies, we witness the piste de resistance; the fetus and its mother comes face to face, and in a series of transitions, where the horrific looking Suckling turns into a manky plastic doll, we see our villain squeeze itself back into its mothers womb. Yes. And then later on, while the mother is in a mental hospital, and getting raped nonetheless, we see the umbilical cord whip out and murder her rapist.

The Suckling represents everything that I love and hate about exploitation flicks. The last scenes of the film show a corpse, you presume the businessman, on fire, and the skin graphically melting away. Two people, including a young lad in a "Fuck Dis" t-shirt, just stare agape at this horror. This is the sensationalism you expect, but you have to go through so much bad acting and vast spaces of not much happening at all to get to it. The directors ambition clearly outweighs their ability to depict it, and while there can be charm in the amateur, content and pacing needs to be appreciated too.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be telling everyone that wants to listen about the sewage baby that went on the rampage just because it wanted to be close to its mother. It does make a good story.

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