Apparently Troma didn’t corner the market in bad taste; at least one film gave them competition in the annals of horror, and that’s The Suckling (1990), a fairly obscure little ditty brought up from the sewers by the fine stewards at Vinegar Syndrome for a fun Blu-ray release.
I say “fairly obscure” because the film did have a hint of notoriety behind it when it was revealed that Fangoria’s own Michael Gingold was one of two men inside the monster suit; The Suckling is also fortunate that it came out in the time before the internet—any movie that seems to come down hard on the side of pro-life would not escape controversy in this day and age.
Monster suits and pro-lifers, you say? Just what the hell is this thing about anyway? I’m glad you asked: we find a woman locked up in an insane asylum, and the doctors provide us with some quick exposition. It turns out she’s the only survivor of a massacre inside a brothel/seedy abortion clinic, and she claims that her discarded fetus is responsible for the murders! We then flash back one week, where the young lady and her boyfriend head to said location against her better judgment. She wants to keep her baby, he wants her to terminate.
The house itself does nothing to placate her fears; filled with creepy johns and seen-better-days sex workers, the young woman is ushered upstairs to the clinic, where she is knocked out; it turns out her beau set it up with the abortionist, and we watch her use the trusty coat hanger to remove the fetus and flush it down the toilet.
This is where things get interesting; the house is situated near some toxic waste (naturally), so our little aborted boy is soon covered with enough of the stuff to grow up big and strong in about 15 minutes. He heads back up to the house to get revenge on those who foolishly thought they could snuff out his life, sealing off every window and door with his sticky sustenance. Bad things follow.
As I’ve said, if The Suckling came out today, it would probably cause apoplectic shock in some whose eyes cross its path. Except for those who like energetic no-budget flicks, that is. And truth be told, the abortion angle isn’t something that overflows throughout this particular sewer; it’s the impetus for all the events, yes, but there is no sense of moral superiority on behalf of the filmmakers. They set out to make a monster movie, and simply came up with this idea for a nasty B-chomper. Think of it as an update on the old alligator flushed down the toilet folktale, with the alligator a roaring, bug-eyed slime beast, and you’re on your way.
The Suckling isn’t strong in most regards, but I assume you guessed that. The acting ranges from wooden to slightly less wooden, and the dialogue never strays too far from hand-wringing angst and claustrophobic panic when it isn’t busy slaughtering several folks in a decidedly siege-like manner.
And this is why it’s good, unwholesome fun: the creature effects range from homespun appreciation to genuine wonder, with our monster impressive as a wee fetus and full grown; his articulation is pretty good, especially considering a measly $10,000 of the $50,000 budget was spent on it. This is a creature feature that wants you to see its creature, and for good reason—he’s a solid addition to the horror canon.
Is there more to The Suckling beyond decent effects and an objectionable premise? Not really. But does there have to be for it to be entertaining?
Vinegar Syndrome ups the interest, though, with a couple of solid features in addition to a good scrubbing of the 16mm print. Let’s have a look-see:
The video interviews with Teri and Gingold are quite illuminating: Teri regales with behind-the-scenes travails of getting his one and only feature made, and the subsequent fallout from the subject matter; and the soft-spoken Gingold wears his involvement like a badge of low-budget honor (as he should.) Not a lot of special features then, but a film of this stature receiving any kind of love is a testament to Vinegar Syndrome’s dedication to scratching that underbelly itch of so many collectors.
The Suckling is as nauseating or as refreshing as you want it to be; it all depends on your viewpoint. But since Vinegar Syndrome has given you a choice in the matter, my non-accredited horror opinion would be to keep this baby, fangs and all.
Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: 3.5/5