Thursday, 5 February 2015

Horrors of 2014: Starry Eyes (2014)

Starry Eyes (2014)
Director: Kevin Kolsch, and Dennis Widmyer
Starring: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, and Noah Segan
Running Time: 98 min

  This is like the kickstarter dream story if I have ever heard one.  The majority of the funding for this film came from their campaign and then their project blows up with so many rave reviews, awards and it becomes noted as one best films of the year, I mean this is the Cinderella of horror movie kickstarter campaigns.  I really amazing, so how can I not be excited to watch this film and find out what all the hub bub is about.

    Sarah is a struggling actress in La La land and like so many, she is a young pretty girl with big dreams and hopes of being a movie star.  Unfortunately, she is stuck working as a waitress at a "Hooters" knock off restaurant called "Big Taters".  Her roommate and friends are a group of young directors, writers and actresses, who are always talking about putting together projects that never see the light of day.  Also, her "friend" Erin loves letting her know that she was the one that got the role for the commercial, not her and likes to take digs at her whenever possible.  Bitch.  So like many young actresses she searches the net trying to find interesting projects and while doing so, she stumbles upon one called "The Silent Scream".  She likes the idea of the story and the role, so she sends in her head shot and her information.
  After a couple of days she gets a call back and heads over to the audition, the casting directors impolitely go through her scene with her and at the end of the scene, tell her that "They'll be in touch."  Sarah almost begs them to give it another shot, but the casting directors firmly let her know that they've seen enough, thank you.  Frustrated, Sarah goes to the bathroom and has a complete melt down and ends up pulling out clumps of her hair.  Once her tantrum has settled, she opens the door to the lavatory and discovers that one of the casting directors over heard her fit.  The casting director invites her back to the audition, on the condition that she performs the tantrum again.  Embarrassed but wanting the gig, Sarah goes back to the room and tries to recreate her meltdown for the movie the casting directors.
  After words she feels that the casting directors may have been just making fun of her and heads back home with her tail between her legs.  However, the studio does call her back for a second audition and Sarah is totally pumped, but the casting director tells her that this time it will be a little different.  When she arrives that evening for the audition, the room is pitch black with the exception of a small spotlight in the center of the room.  Sarah finds her way into the spotlight and the casting directors ask her to disrobe.  Sarah tells them that she doesn't remember the film having any nude parts and the casting directors tell her that if she wants the part then she'll let herself go with it and take off her clothes.  She does reluctantly and as she stands there naked with the camera rolling and flash bulbs popping, she feels a surge of freedom that she hasn't felt before.  She goes home with a sense of vigor and a fresh take on life.
  She gets a call back from the studio and they request a final meeting with the head of the production company.  Totally excited, she ignores the no phone rules at "Big Taters" and is forced to  have a meeting with her boss.  He gives her the Tater's team talk and she quits because she feels that she needs to prioritize her acting career.  That night she goes to the final meeting with the producer but things go horribly wrong for Sarah.  Ends up that the producer is not only interested in her acting ability  and has his hand up her skirt.  Sarah freaks out and leaves because she feels that no part is worth that, no matter how big..., the part... in the movie is.  Will Sarah ever reach goal and become a superstar in the movie biz or will she have to go back to her shitty job, beg for it back and be forced to become the topic of gossip amongst her friends?  Is there another way and at what lengths will she go to transform herself into a star?

  This is a very enjoyable film and it reminds me of a mix between, Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" and Ti West's "House of the Devil".  The film is so low key and there is such a slow build at the beginning, that when you get hammered in the face with some very impressive violence in the second act of the film, it really catches you off guard.  Also the ending has this incredibly visceral feel and look to it that will stay with you for days. 
  I think the casting was terrific in this, Alex Essoe is fantastic in the role as Sarah in every facet.  She plays the character very meekly in the beginning with her friends and at work and as the film progresses and she starts focusing and sorting out her priorities, she becomes stronger and more vicious. Her scenes with Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills, The Innkeepers) who plays her boss at "Big Taters", are fantastic and just ring true because I know we've all had bosses like Healy's character.  Also, I really enjoyed Maria Olsen (Paranormal Activity 3, Scream Zombie Scream) and Marc Senter (The Lost, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever), who play the casting director and the assistant.  They nail the performance and give off just the right feel of arrogance & creepy that these characters need to come across just right.

  Although, I understand that this is a slow burn picture and I can appreciate what directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer are building up to, I think that it might be a little too slow for some horror fans.  After seeing the whole picture in retrospect, I know what they are doing but in the first 50 minutes, I was wondering, so where is the scary?  Again, I liked how it turned out but if they could have given a few more touches or glimpses into what was coming than it might have been better to keep the audience involved in the horror aspect.  All I'm saying is that some people may find it too slow but if you/they/he/she stick with the film, it does pay off rather brilliantly in the end.
  Also I did wonder about how the Sarah character's course of actions in the later part of the film won't have some serious repercussion from the law.  I'm sure those matters will be handled by the fictional studio in the film because I'm sure they probably have some connections but it's just a thought when you see bloody knives and weights being discarded so frivolously about.  You can't be a superstar if you're in prison, unless you're Charlie.

  Overall though I agree with the accolades that this film has received.  Although it is a little slow at the beginning, it turns into a very smart, sharp & gory film in the end.  This is the kind of outside the lines horror that is equally strange and fascinating to watch and I'm looking forward to seeing what these directors have in store for us next.  So, if you're looking for a slow burn film that will satisfy you're bloody cravings than look into these starry eyes and let your self go... see it.

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