Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Starry Eyes (2014)

"That's what I want to capture in this film: the ugliness of the human spirit."

From the very first scene, you can tell that there's something wrong with this movie. And, being that this is a horror movie, I unfortunately don't mean that in a good way. I can't believe it's gotten so many good reviews! The lead (Alexandra Essoe) - playing an aspiring Hollywood actress - is excessively prone to neuroticism. It's distracting. As much as I appreciate the Poe school of thought on constructing atmosphere (i.e., every word in the story must contribute to the desired mood), you need to start with a sympathetic character (which is not the same thing as a "good person", if Breaking Bad has taught us anything), and an intriguing story. I don't doubt that picking up and moving to Los Angeles and pinning all your hopes on the remote chance that you're really as talented as your parents and boyfriends have always told you is scary, but it's not literally a waking nightmare, with hallucinations and everything. At least, not unless you have a serious mental disorder - but this girl, prone to hyperventilating, and pulling her hair out over auditions that she really did well at, is not so much fascinating to watch (as was the case in They Look Like People) as simply annoying. I'd mention, too, that the movie seems to play too nicely into the hands of those who love to overemphasize the perils of the modeling industry, but perhaps that's more of a personal gripe.

At any rate, the theme of this story is a cross-pollination of The Neon Demon and Rosemary's Baby, that develops not unlike The House of the Devil (minus its subtlety and restraint). The idea is that the Hollywood elite are populated by devil-worshipers, and it's an exploration of what a person can be willing to do for fame. It's not a completely original idea, but it's an interesting one, which is why it's such a shame that this movie lacks a feeling of "truthiness", and that it spends so much time focused on gore that you lose interest in whatever it might be trying to say. Like, that maybe sucking a bigwig producer's cock (apparently, blowjobs are a viable method for demonic impregnation - I'm not sure if this is a neat idea, or just lazy plotting) for a gateway part might actually be worth it if you really want to be a star - and that when your non-famous "friends" protest in the name of moral outrage (while hypocritically popping pills they can't even identify), they're just proving the point. Maybe "body horror" isn't really my thing after all (although some of my favorite movies of all time are body horrors - Alien, John Carpenter's The Thing), but the story should have been the cult, not using it as an excuse for (spoiler) the film to devolve into a typical slasher. Could there potentially be a delicious steak sitting here on the platter in front of me? Maybe, but I can't taste it for all the blood and vomit poured over top of it. Save yourself a stomachache - make a list of all the much better movies this one is being compared to, and then watch those instead.


  1. It's a shame this turned out to be not so good. I love Satanic cults. I don't think body horror is my thing either.

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  3. I want to say that body horror is like anything else. Although the goal - as with any form of horror - is to make you feel uncomfortable, you can do that in more of a cerebral way, by playing on the viewer's psychological fears of, say, having a hostile organism growing inside of them, or facing a predator that can assimilate your DNA and change itself to look just like you (or the people around you), while being in no way shape or form anything even remotely human.

    And I'm not a square - sometimes you need a little bloodbath to drive the point home. The chestburster scene in Alien is one of the greatest moments in horror movie history, and I loved the gory fx in John Carpenter's The Thing (perhaps because there was a sci-fi/fantasy element to it). But you can just get so caught up in the gross-out, that it just becomes unappealing in a way that isn't even entertaining.

    I don't know, maybe it's a fine line, and there is subjectivity involved as always. Some of my favorite episodes of The X-Files were some of the gross ones. But I don't want to sit there and watch somebody basically get sick and decompose on screen over the course of an hour.

    Notwithstanding Jeff Goldblum's excellent role in The Fly (another one of cinema history's truly great remakes). It's weird that I have all these exceptions - but give me a good story, and then focus on that story. Don't make your movie an excuse to illustrate an X-rated (and, sadly, not for sex or nudity) version of Gray's Anatomy...