Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Starry Eyes (2014)

From the synth score to the retro looking titles, Starry Eyes seemed like a film I would really get into... but something about it just didn't stick.

Charting the questionable ascent into stardom of aspiring young actress Sarah Walker, this is a slow moving body horror... cult... slasher? (an argument could be made for any and all of those sub-genres). There is a lot of build up, a very grisly payoff and some gruesomeness along the way. But somehow the pacing seems off. We shouldn't have to wait until the last 15min to be fully engaged with this movie, right?

Sarah lives in LA and works a crappy job while going to auditions for acting roles. She's competent enough as an actress, that much we see - but she's not getting anywhere, and after each disappointing audition experience, she goes into a kind of... demonic, hair-pulling seizure. For one audition she's caught in the bathroom doing this by the casting director and asked to return to the room and do it again, to order. After some initial hesitation, she complies.

It appears that these filmmakers are after something very special from their leading ladies.

I will concede that this poster art is gorgeous though.

I will give writer and director team Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer credit for not having this play out exactly as a run-of-the-mill Faustian tale, and there are some really arresting visuals throughout, particularly in the final sequence (even though what happens is kind of signposted about halfway through the run time).

The slightly hyper-real vibe about the movie also works to make everything feel off-kilter and nightmarish. Most of the film is shot in a cold, blue light; going against the warm tones of Los Angeles that we're used to in movies. This doesn't seem a nice place to be.

LA itself is shown as a sleazy, unfriendly place full of shallow young people with no clue what they're doing. And this fact specifically posed a problem for me.

For one thing, all of Sarah's friends are pretty shitty. One in particular had my husband yelling "Christ, just kill her already!" so yes, you know or at least hope that they are going to get theirs, eventually. The problem is that it takes sooo long to get there! At least with a conventional slasher (a good one anyway) you know kills are going to happen with some kind of regularity.

Ordinarily, films that are still and slow are more satisfying in their denouement than this. What was I missing?

I don't know... maybe I'm being too harsh. It had occurred to me that this might be good to watch in a double bill with The Invitation. Both are Hollywood hills-centric with a cult twist, and maybe a themed re-watch might make me appreciate it a little more...

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