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Thirst and Suck. Oh, vampires. 

Starting this up a full 48 hours before the Opening Gala is a new record for me, but here I am, once again, primed for days and days of Atlantic Film Festival screenings, events and parties. And, as usual, gasping slightly at the long list of embargoed films, features expected to have a theatrical release with distributors desperate to smother any bad buzz. Which means we Coast bloggers wont be able to get into the real meat of many movies we see. But we'll give you as much as we can.

Our first cancellation of the fest came early: The White Stripes Under The Great White Northern Lights was one of my most anticipated screenings of the festival, now pulled. If I can find out why I'll let you know.

Though it wasn't a part of the AFF , I feel like I got a taste of the kind of movies well be seeing when I went to AFCOOPs Monday Night Movies and saw Thirst, the recent film by Chan-wook Park. Its great of AFCOOP to bring in the film, which has earned positive reviews elsewhere, especially since the Korean filmmakers last opus was Oldboy, a minor classic whose poster was up outside the Oxford for awhile but the picture itself never showed in Halifax cinemas.

Thirst is an unorthodox vampire movie, the story of a Catholic priest, Sang-hyeon, played by Kang-ho Song, who volunteers for to test an antidote to a virulent African virus not unlike Ebola. The virus wins, but somehow he comes back from the dead via a blood transfusion. He's fine, full of supernatural power, so long as he continues to drink blood. He manages to keep doing this without discovery but falls in love with Tae-joo, played by Ok-vin Kim, and she leads him off the trail of righteousness to the onramp of a highway to hell.

This picture starts so well. The visual effects that illustrate our hero's changing and evolving vampire senses are beautiful, and the erotic scenes between Kang-ho Song and Ok-vin Kim are hot and heavy. The tone of the piece is both dramatic and moving as we really understand the priests guilt and peculiar changes, with some nice moments of humour throughout. Unfortunately, at the mid-point, things start to go south. A killing wracks the murderers with guilt, and all of a sudden were watching a melodramatic ghost story, a movie where most of the women seem to go insane. And things just go more OTT from there. Plus, it goes long, waaay too long. Too bad because the opening act is so good its doubly disappointing when that energy isn't sustained. Still, props to AFCOOP for bringing in a challenging picture for Halifax audiences (I saw a number of people walk out, which is always a good thing) warming us up for the festival and a season of Monday Night Movies beyond.

Speaking of vampires, I have seen my first film of the 29th AFF. It was Suck, by Rob Stefaniuk, a Canadian rock and roll-vampire-road-movie-musical. Yes, it is all of those things. It features Stefaniuk as a guy trying to keep his band, The Winners, together, while they face the publics wild disaffection with their current tour. Bass player Jennifer (Jessica Paré) has a rough night with a nest of vamps and voila, she becomes a bloodsucker, but her sudden supernatural magnetism draws positive attention to the band and its fortunes rise as the bodies start to pile up. Director/actor/composer Stefaniuk has collected a fairly impressive roster of rock gods for supporting roles, including Henry Rollins, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Alex Lifeson (who has a great moustache and a scene with Malcolm McDowell, who plays vampire hunter Eddie Van Helsing... get it?!).

I liked that the picture is rife with direct visual rock and roll references, from The Who, The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, and movie references, including moments liberally inspired by Hard Core Logo, the greatest of all Canadian rock road movies. Also, Stefaniuk pulls the same trick Steven Soderbergh did in The Limey. Soderbergh used a clip of his star Terence Stamp from an older Stamp picture Poor Cow (1967) in a flashback scene. Here Stefaniuk cops a couple of clips from O Lucky Man (1973) for McDowell flashbacks in his film. Very cool. Suck is fun, diverting and, somehow, a very Canadian rock and roll-vampire-road-movie-musical: It's quite polite.

I was fortunate enough to speak with the delightful Ms Paré today. Look for the interview in Thursday's Coast. She says shell be in town for the premiere's of Suck and the other festival picture in which she stars, The Trotsky, on September 25 and 26.

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