The Film (3/5)
Modern horror and I have a very difficult relationship. Since the mid-2000's I have not seen a mainstream horror film that has really interested me in the way that film's that came before have, and yet I always keep my eye on modern genre cinema in the hopes that a newer film will have a similar impact on me as those that came before did. About a month ago I went to a screening of the film Starry Eyes at an almost midnight screening at the Alamo Drafthouse - South Lamar, and for 45 minutes I was compelled into a brutal, hypnotic, and character driven horror experience like no other. Then my phone vibrated, I left the theater, and had to leave the film due to a family emergency. I would not complete the film until Dark Sky sent over the Blu-ray this month for it's release. I was in suspense for that time, would the film stick it's landing? Could the experience I started be truly as good as I hoped?
The film stars Alexandra Essoe as Sarah Walker a Hollywood cliché if there ever was one. During the day she is a waitress at a Hooters knock off restaurant Hot Taters, and in her spare time she is an aspiring actress trying to make her way in Hollywood. One day Sarah applies to audition for what sounds like a truly awful horror film "The Silver Scream" made by a once great studio, that is looking to make a comeback. During the audition she puts in an admirable performance, but is turned away. In the bathroom afterward she punishes herself by having a fit that includes pulling her own hair out. This is accidentally observed by one of the people who auditioned her, and she is called back in, to recall the fit for studio eyes. She impresses them with her off-kilter behavior and lands a second audition, she then is offered the role if only she can do what the part requires.
The quote on the DVD box mentions that the film channels both of the great David’s of modern cinema, Cronenberg and Lynch, and while the film certainly feels like it is channeling the latter especially early on (with a touch of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut). It never feels like a Cronenberg film other than it occasionally uses the human body as a vehicle for horror. Starry Eyes, however, never acheives the depth of Cronenberg piece, not even at his earliest most exploitive.
Starry Eyes has two things truly going for it the lead performance by Alexandra Essoe which early on is quite excellent and intense, as she managers to alter her personal dynamic for the material. There is also the excellent sound design that does indeed offer a Lynch-ian experience somewhat akin to Eraserhead. However, for all the goodwill the film earns throughout it's first half, it loses it in it's second. The film early on feels like a wonderfully twisted character driven horror film. After she finally accepts the "role", and what she must do for it, the film becomes nothing more than second rate slasher fodder with no suspense, decent kills, and a more rushed pacing, where the first half offered a more bizarre languid pacing. Of course, the filmmakers do attempt to offer imagery that wouldn't be out of place in a Jodorowsky movie in an attempt to add depth where there is none.
I had high hopes for Starry Eyes being the next truly great horror classic, and if it had continued on the path laid down in it's first half it surely might have been so. Still it offers an interesting viewing experience grounded by a wonderful lead performance, and even with my personal issue Starry Eyes still stands tall above most modern genre cinema.
Dark Sky Films presents the film in a 2:40:1 AVC encoded transfer that preserves the films original OAR. The film looks quite good with excellent fine detail, deep blacks, and a very natural colors.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in English. The dialogue, score, and effects come through nicely, and the films wonderfully ambient sound design really creates an otherworldly experience here.
Dark Sky has presented a decent extras package for their release of Starry Eyes. The Blu-ray has a director's commentary track, an audition video by Alexandra Essoe, 10 deleted scenes, a music video, photo gallery, and trailers for other Dark Sky releases.
Starry Eyes is an interesting, but ultimately flawed horror experience. It is a film that will certainly find it's fans, and certainly has elements to recommend. The Blu-ray from Dark Sky looks and sounds quite excellent, and is loaded with extras for fans. RECOMMENDED.