There’s a line in Old School where Vince Vaughn’s character creepily tries to cheer up Luke Wilson by comparing his recently broken up character to a hurt fawn lost in the forest that women are desperate to try and heal. It’s played for laughs, of course, but the image of anyone recently broken up with as an injured and vulnerable animal begs the question of ‘what if instead of someone nurturing coming along to help heal them, a predator comes along to finish the job?’ Stephen Vanderpool’s Tearsucker takes that premise and gives us a vaguely Cronenbergian thriller about a sociopathic murderer who gets off on consuming the tears of women he’s emotionally broken even further. Fun, right?
Tearsucker revolves around Lilly (brought vividly to life by the immensely talented Allison Walter), a recently single woman still coming to terms with her most recent relationship, which we find out was wrought with horrific abuse and violence. At her friends urging, Lilly starts up an old project she had: a video blog. One night, she makes a particularly heartfelt video about her situation and pours it all out for the world to see (again, Walter’s performance is incredible to behold). She feels emotionally cleansed, but unfortunately, she has captured the attention of Tom, a man who by all outwards appearance is perfect: he’s sensitive, he’s considerate, he’s funny, he listens. All of this, alas, is just a mask. In reality Tom is a heartless and violent murderer who seems to gain sustenance from the emotional strife of lonely women, a B-grade It who gets off on seeing the women who thought they found the perfect man slowly realize he’s the worst things that ever happened to them. Tom soon sets his sights on Lilly, and she finds herself in the grips of a cold-blooded and unfeeling beast of a human being.
Tearsucker is an intensely upsetting film. It’s not for everyone. It takes an unflinching look at physical and emotional abuse and quite literally shoves our faces right into the middle of it. It is, however, not without its shortcomings. Tom’s habit of “tear sucking” is disquieting in theory. Seeing it play out in the movie the first time is jolting as hell. However, as the film goes on, it sort of fades into the background. Sure, it’s always uncomfortable to watch, but what’s even more unsettling is the very realistic way he emotionally dismembers his victims. It’s so effective that it feels almost pornographic to watch. The tear sucking becomes secondary to this very real abusive behavior, which is a problem in a film called Tearsucker because without that this is largely just an extra violent movie about a man preying on vulnerable women, a premise that’s been done many times.
You could easily make an argument that technical achievements aside this film is borderline exploitive when it comes to mining the hell that is emotional abuse as a source of horror. I personally didn’t find the film problematic, but I absolutely understand people being uncomfortable with this film. Allison Walter truly is spectacular in making us believe in Lilly’s suffering, but at times she feels like little more than a prop in the film reveling in how terrible Tom is.
In all honesty, I’m not sure where I stand on this film. I quite enjoyed it at first but the more I thought about it the more I feel the zippers showed in the story. I don’t think it’s problematic per se, but I understand why people might think that. Despite some spectacular performances and an intriguing premise, the film loses it’s way. The real life abuse the film is built around is far more upsetting than the drinking tears segments, and that original idea gets woefully overshadowed. I guess in summation if you think you’ll dislike this movie, you probably will, but if you want to be made uncomfortable by all means watch it.
TEARSUCKER is currently available on VOD.