Friday, May 22, 2015

Starry Eyes - Movie Review

Starry Eyes
Dir. Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch

Spoilers ahead

Starry Eyes is a recently released horror film and I have to say, though I had heard nothing of it before randomly running across it on Netflix and the user reviews were mixed, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Starry Eyes.  It was a reasonable mix of gore, supernatural elements, human depravity, and uncomfortableness.  Very often horror movies start out with a big scare and then trickle deaths or scary moments throughout the film, culminating in the final epic death scene.  Starry Eyes took a bit of a different approach, starting out slow and creepily building throughout the entire film until all of the epic-ness was crammed into about the last 25 minutes.  But it wasn't in a boring or dull way.  There wasn't a ton of filler and then a bit of action.  It was consistently unsettling and curiosity-evoking throughout the entire film.

Our film focuses around Sarah, a skinny self-conscious diner waitress by day and aspiring actress by night, as so many seem to be these days.  She has an audition for a film "The Silver Scream" produced by Astraeus Pictures in which she meets two super dicky casting directors who basically blow her off and she goes to have a meltdown in the bathroom, pulling her hair out, screaming, acting generally crazy.  The female casting director catches this tantrum and brings her back to the audition room to reenact it.  Sarah falls on the ground convulsing and screaming and the casting directors are intrigued by her passion and unbridled emotions and she gets a callback.

It all goes downhill from here.  On her second callback, Sarah enters a dark room and is asked to disrobe.  The lights go out and then proceed to flash in a strobe light effect as we see shadowy figures and quick shots of Sarah with sharp teeth and bleeding from the mouth.  This whole scene is very artsy but done quite well.  Throughout the film, we are also introduced to Sarah's roommates/friends who are all douchey southern Californian "stereotypical theater kids."  They are critical of all of Sarah's attempts at acting and do nothing but condescendingly criticize her on a regular basis.  Sarah learns that the producer of the film wants to meet with her and he is a creepy older man who explains to Sarah that "The industry is a plague of shallowness" and he "Wants to capture the ugliness of the human spirit."  He offers her the role in the film but also wants a BJ, of course.  Sarah runs away, disgusted.

A bit later, Sarah and her friends take some ecstasy and have a pool party and in the midst of her high, Sarah calls the producer back and says she really wants the part.  She heads to Astraeus Pictures and basically is propositioned by the producer to kill her old life and step inside the gateway of a glorious new life as she is surrounded by men in creepy black masks and hoods.  The music builds, the tension increases, the audience is on the edge of their seats as we wonder what Sarah is going to do...
He gets the BJ he wanted, afterall.

Then the movie progresses into the second half, which I consider to be the gross but awesome half.  Sarah is at a true turning point and starts to experience oddities that both confuse and exhilarate her.  Sarah experiences intense stomach pain, drools at work at the diner and slaps her boss, gets fired, vomits, has her hair fall out and her fingernails fall off, asks her roommate if she is on period because she can smell her, and tells her best friend to F off.  Granted, I summarized all of these occurrences in one run-on sentence but this evolution of Sarah's character from a walked-all-over but quiet sweetheart to a gross, dirty, sick asshole is simultaneously intriguing and heartbreaking.  Her physical corruption alone is hard to watch and I really have to give it up to the hair and makeup team on the film as they made Sarah look repulsive in a very sad way.

Our movie reaches its highest tension point when Sarah's eyes cloud over, she bleeds from the mouth and private parts, throws up a ton of maggots in the bathtub, and starts to lose all of her hair.  She gets a call from the producer telling her she can die and be forgotten or be reborn.  "It's time to become one of us.  It's time to be remembered."  Sarah goes on an absolute rampage killing all her friends/roommates.  Several are stabbed multiple times and the goriest death is when Sarah pounds her friend's face in with a dumbbell, completely obliterating her face and head.  At the end, hooded figures come out of the shadows and bloody naked Sarah emerges from a grave, bald, muddy, and with freakishly long fingernails.  She receives a special birthday package from Astraeus with a gown and wig inside as she admires her beauty in the mirror and we see shots of various old Hollywood glamorous stars in the background, as we are led to believe perhaps they too were patrons of Astraeus Pictures.

The thing I like about Starry Eyes is even though it's gross and gory and sexual and desperate, it never spells out exactly what the leaders of Astraeus Pictures are.  Are they members of a cult?  Are they vampires?  Are they witches?  I thought they were vampires due to the various comments about blood throughout the film but Sarah isn't seen with the generic vampire teeth at the end of the film.  My husband watched it as well and he found it to be somewhat boring and he didn't pick up on the vampire theme at all, so maybe I'm crazy?  However, that's what I actually love about the movie.  It makes so little sense and leaves so many questions unanswered but not in an enraging way.  It doesn't project the annoyance of sparkly Twilight vampires but instead has the audience witness a nasty, gory, gross, and debilitating process of being reborn and the struggle that comes with choosing a new life and abandoning everything you thought you once knew.  The rebirth, the brainwashing, the ravenous side of Sarah is glamorized.  Even after she has killed all of her friends, she feels beautiful, sophisticated, and more alive than ever.  Starry Eyes is twisted.  It's complicated.  It's sad and it's gory.  More than anything, it's different.  I grow tired of the same old repetitive horror movie formula, so for that reason alone, Starry Eyes gets two thumbs up from me (but only one thumb up from my husband!)


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