Starry Eyes: The True Price Of Fame
Dir. Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer (2014)
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down and watch Starry Eyes (with my wife no less, who tends to hate and refuse to watch horror movies). I had heard a lot about this movie, and the reviews ranged from outstanding to stellar. For a movie with limited release, I couldn't imagine that it was as good as everyone said it was. But, I'm a fan of movies about movies, and I love when people take advantage of the medium of film itself, so I was down to at least give it a go. Besides, the buzz was too big to ignore.
You can't usually trust reviews used on movie posters, but comparisons to Lynch and Cronenberg? Holy shit...I am unequivocally glad that I did. Starry Eyes rocks. A story about a girl who is willing to give literally anything for fame, Starry Eyes tells the (slightly) exaggerated tale we've heard thousands of times before; that young actresses are forced to do unimaginable things to get ahead in the male-dominated Hollywood culture. After finding success, she quickly learns that perhaps she should've been a little bit more careful about what she wished for, and she doesn't like what she discovers about the true origin of the Hollywood Elite. The story has been repeated so many times it's practically a trope, but Starry Eyes manages to transcend the usual expectations.
The actress, seen here "acting."
Alex Essoe, who plays Sarah, the "hero" of our film, does a masterful job of being an actress who gets in over her head, while directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer somehow manage to take a movie that for all intents and purposes should be boring and take it off the rails to Crazy Train Town, and you can really feel the influences of Lynch and Widmyer protege Chuck Palahniuk. The use of sound in this movie was magnificent; Jonathan Snipes' score is reminiscent of early Carpenter. The film within a film's producer, played by Louis Dezseran, a relatively unknown stage actor, was sufficiently creepy. Even Sarah's friends, whose characters are developed admittedly heavy-handedly at times, were done well enough not to subtract from the feel of the movie.
The film builds into a crescendo of tension and anxiety, culminating into a loud, crashing shotgun blast of crazy, drawing comparisons to Ti West's House of the Devil. It morphs from a bizarrely intense drama/mystery into full-on body horror. We watch as Essoe's character undergoes a dramatic "transformation," and we feel for the genuinely good girl gone very, very bad. Ultimately, we're left to question whether we would do the same thing in her position if there was something we wanted badly enough. And ultimately, we're kinda glad we're never given that option.
Starry Eyes was a tremendous film, executed nearly perfectly by all involved. Sufficiently creepy, delightfully gory, and deliciously anxiety-inducing, it is, as critic Simon Abrams puts it, "a supernatural mood piece that's equally influenced by arthouse horror movies... and the grindhouse-ready Satanic Panic films of the 70's." Hit the nail on the head, Simon.
Bottom Line: Check it out. It's streaming on Netflix, so there's no excuse. One of the best uses of a score I've seen in recent years, wonderfully directed, an absolute must-see. When we talk about weird shit that we can't really explain in movies, we immediately think David Lynch. When we think body horror and the way certain things just look "wrong," we immediately think David Cronenberg. Hopefully, in the future, when we consider an excellent combination of both, we will think of Kolsch and Widmyer. I'm just hoping we get to see more of them in the future. 8 out of 10 stars.