This week, I finally managed to cross Starry Eyes off my list of must-see 2014 horror titles.
After auditioning for the lead in a horror film, Sarah (Alex Essoe) discovers she may have to give up more than she thought for the part.
This was one of those few occasions where I knew almost nothing going in other than it involved Hollywood, a satanic cult and had a lot of festival buzz behind it. I enjoyed that I didn't know exactly where it was going to go. Sure, its Tinsel Town metaphor may have been thinly veiled, but I couldn't help but smile through a lot of those moments.
In some ways, this film is a strange beast. It has a retro sensibility, but also doesn't get sucked into a lot of the usual trappings associated with this oft-used device. Helped along by a great synth score (to add to the many fantastic ones of 2014) it feels vintage yet modern at the same time. It reminded me of stuff I'd seen before - Ti West's House of the Devil and 2012's Canadian body horror flick Thanatomorphose were two that came to mind - yet this was one of those rare instances where a film subsequently improved upon those beats. Starry Eyes felt more well rounded and not just about one thing; there was a journey here, an arc.
|Sarah (Alex Essoe) auditions for The Silver Scream.|
Which brings me to lead actress Alex Essoe. She turned in a fine performance that not only required an emotional range, but a physical one, as well. Essoe's transformation takes her far away from the sweet and innocent soul she begins the film as. In addition to Essoe, there were a lot of familiar faces from the indie horror scene including Pat Healy, Noah Segan, Amanda Fuller and, of course, Marc Senter being his usual eccentric screwball self. The majority of the characters in Starry Eyes may not be the most three-dimensional you've ever seen, but at least they are memorable. I thought Maria Olsen as the casting director had this great Miss “Suspiria” Tanner vibe going on and Louis Dezsern steals both scenes he's in as the sleazy producer.
|The producer (Louis Dezsern) up to no good.|
Which reminds me that I also want to commend co-writer/directors Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer for being able to toe the line of bad taste. The subject matter is that of films made over the last ten years by the likes of Lucky McKee and his entourage, but Kolsch & Widmyer seemed to know how to regulate the amount of lasciviousness. They know how to repulse, but not anger. At least me anyway.
Starry Eyes is a solid little film that is well made and anchored by a strong lead. In a year stocked with really great indies I hope this one doesn't get overlooked. It may seem superficial at first, but its undertones run deeper.