Starry Eyes – Movie Review

Year: 2014
Production Companies: Snowfort Pictures, Parallactic Pictures, Dark Sky Films (in association with), Title Media
Country: USA / Belgium
Writers: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Cast: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Maria Olsen
Rating: 3/5

Starry Eyes is a disturbing documentary investigating how Hollywood initiates new, bright stars to its galaxy… Well, not quite.

Essoe in Starry Eyes (2014)
Essoe in Starry Eyes (2014)

Kolsch and Widmyer’s film was another of the recurring titles on the ‘best of’ lists last year, and is finally available to rent in the UK. Their story centres on a young, struggling actress, Sarah (Essoe) who spends her days working at a fast food restaurant, failing at auditions and then hanging out with her group of insipid ‘actor’ friends. Sarah’s desire for recognition and fame lead her to violently tug at the hair on her scalp in desperation, and it is these self-detrimental actions which give Sarah the chance of a lifetime. The question is: how far is she willing to go to make her dreams come true?

The synopsis isn’t the most intriguing, and films which are too self-aware of often quite boring to watch. Sarah auditions for a film called ‘The Silver Scream’, and Kolsch and Widmyer could have entered into some pretty cliché territory, but thankfully the horror-film-within-horror-film opportunity is ignored. Instead, Starry Eyes takes its time to wind up to a gruesome climax, and focuses on Sarah’s life as an individual rather than the life she wishes she could lead.

The directorial style has been compared to the two Davids: Lynch and Cronenberg, and these are fair comparisons. The first half of the film is a jerking nightmare, with flashing images and jump cuts a-plenty. The style is clearly influenced by the bizarre side of horror, and Cronenberg’s study of body horror is the clearest of influences.

The sacrifices we make for fame...
The sacrifices we make for fame…

Kolsch and Widmyer play with the concept of fame and stardom, and how it changes a person. In the case of Starry Eyes, it destroys the original person, creating a brutal, monstrous being who is finally reborn in perfection. It’s a pleasing idea, and considering the lunacy of the Hollywood elite, it’s not impossible to believe that shit like this actually happens in the shadows of the Hollywood sign. The concept that adoration, confidence and recognition begins to corrode a person from the inside out is visualised in graphic detail.

Once the film reaches its dramatic climax, the body horror morphs into slashtastic scenes as Sarah commits herself to making her dreams come true. Sarah’s metamorphosis also echoes one of my favourite body horrors, Ginger Snaps (2000) which visualises female puberty as a teenage girl growing into a blood thirsty werewolf.

Essoe deserves serious respect for her commitment to her role. It’s a pleasant surprise that as the film goes on, you invest further belief in Sarah’s character, watching he disintegrate but also grow in blind faith that her choice was the right one. Essoe’s also gives consent to looking like a human corpse and being filmed in a way I doubt many image-conscious bores would agree to. The cast who surround her are fairly forgettable, although Fabianne Therese is vile as the jealous rival. I mean that as a compliment.

Essoe's transformation in Starry Eyes (2014)
Essoe’s transformation in Starry Eyes (2014)

I would absolutely recommend checking out Starry Eyes, but unfortunately, as with many horror movies at the moment, it’s just not quite as good as I had hoped. Its residence in the ‘best of’ lists is due to the directorial style and Essoe’s performance, but the script is still uninspiring, and many of the supporting cast are a let-down. However, for an indie horror, I admire Kolsch and Widmyer’s ambition, and I hope they continue to harness the Cronenberg influence, because it is desperately missing from the churns of horror remakes making their way to us at the moment.