STARRY EYES (2014)
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Starry Eyes is a very disturbing and at times, gruesome horror flick that may be a metaphor for loosing one’s soul in the pursuit of fame and fortune…in this case, literally. The film tells the story of emotionally fragile, wannabe actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) who lives with a group of hipster acting hopefuls and works at a degrading Hooters-esque fast food restaurant. She answers an ad for a horror film to be made by Astraeus Pictures, a company renown for such films and gets a strange audition to say the least. The more auditions she goes on for the film, the more bizarre the auditions get till she meets the creepy producer (Louis Dezseran) and he wants something very inappropriate from her. At first Sarah refuses but, the more hopeless her quest for stardom appears, the more she may be willing to give in to his demands. Unbeknownst to Sarah, Astraeus is far more than just a film studio and wants something far more than simple casting couch behavior…and Sarah might sacrifice literally everything to get what she wants.
This movie is a very disturbing horror that evokes Rosemary’s Baby and the work of David Lynch at times, with it’s sinister cult, somewhat surreal approach and explosions of vicious and gruesome violence. It is an exaggerated telling of someone sacrificing their life and soul for a chance at Hollywood stardom and writers/directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer use the cult-like Astraeus Pictures to symbolize the inner circle of Hollywood fame that some might even kill to become part of. They place their already emotionally fragile Sarah into a situation where she is desperate enough to sacrifice everything for her dream, but, as this is a horror film, that ‘everything’ is literal as is the application of the word sacrifice. They skillfully and effectively follow Sarah’s transformation, as the person she was dies away and a new person evolves, one that will kill those she feels have wronged her or, are in her way. The results are chilling, especially when Sarah turns violent towards her one-time friends. It’s a very unsettling ride and even to a hardened horror movie fan, some of the violence is savage enough to evoke a strong response. Graphic violence aside, the film is just very creepy at times with the bizarre employees of the sinister studio and mysterious cloaked figures that seem to follow Sarah, as her physical and mental downward spiral continues toward whatever end is coming. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer also have a simple yet effective visual style and their atmospheric film is aided by some nice shadowy cinematography by Adam Bricker and a John Carpenter-ish score by Jonathan Snipes.
As for the cast, it’s mostly Alex Essoe’s show and she is really strong here and helps make this work so well. She at first gives us a sweet but, somewhat damaged young woman who wants to give meaning to her mundane life by achieving the Hollywood fame she’s always dreamed of. Once she gives herself over to the strange people at the studio, the actress takes us on a startling and disturbing transformation that would be just as effective without the well-executed make-up effects. Essoe gives it her all and she is downright scary at times whereas moments before, she seemed unable to ‘hurt a fly’ as Norman Bates would say. A really good performance and she is supported by an effective cast of relative unknowns as her actor friends and cult members alike. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer get good work out of their players and it helps make this film effective as it is.
I liked this movie, if ‘liked’ is a word that can be applied to a film that is creepy and sometimes absolutely vicious. It is a very effective horror and gives a very literal and sinister nature to the whole concept of sacrificing all to become one of Hollywood’s elite. It has an effective cast, including a knock-out performance from Alex Essoe as Sarah and some very gruesome gore and make-up FX. A very unnerving and sometimes savagely violent horror with a chilling atmosphere that lasts after it’s over. Also stars The Innkeepers’ Pat Healy as Sarah’s boss at The Big Taters fast food restaurant.
3 and 1/2 wannabe actresses!