A young struggling actress trying to make it big in Hollywood comes to the cross road in her career when offered a once in a lifetime role and must decide whether she is to keep her integrity or sell her soul to the devil to become famous.
What would you do to be a star? We live in a time where fame seems to be the number one currency. We have men and women filming themselves having sex, hoping to be the next big thing. We have seen the introduction of viral superstars, with thousands of people a day uploading videos onto websites hoping to be noticed. Yet it seems all these ideas of notoriety have their foundation in the art of acting. From the creation of the star system and the infamy of the actors in question, there has always been a never ending supply of ambitious, dream obsessed girls wanting to be the next super star. Critiquing this quest Starry Eyes directed by Kevin Kolsh and Dennis Widmyer gives a scathing look into the reality of Hollywood and the way it sucks the soul out of these young ambitious girls. And to be perfectly honest Starry Eyes knocks it right out of the park.
Sarah works a dead end job in a restaurant and lives in a apartment block with other unemployed actors. She finds an audition online for a horror film called The Silver Scream and sets off to blow them away. At the audition things don’t go the way she expects but in a twist of fate she has a call back and meets the film’s wealthy older producer. Sarah is given a choice and comes to a cross roads where she must decide how far she will go to get the role that will have her name in lights.
The plot is reminiscent of many of my favourite films delving into the themes of Hollywood and ambition, from Mullholland Drive to Rosemary’s Baby there is a lot of Starry Eyes that nods itself to its influences. Yet like many great films that have been influenced by others Starry Eyes doesn’t just walk away from the mold but sprints in the other direction. Completely modernising itself and dialling up the terror to 11 the film becomes its own beast as it sees the transformation of one innocent ambitious actress into something horrific. The film does play like a horror however it has an abundance of analogies to the real world of Hollywood and the perils one falls into when playing the game. Without giving too much away Sarah’s descent into fame is jaw-droppingly terrifying and over-the-top yet has it’s feet firmly set in reality.
In the lead role playing Sarah actress Alex Essoe sails this ship into a near masterpiece. The range that she portrays throughout the film is something to behold. The choices, thoughts and feelings she has are shown without a word in her eyes and actions. It is Essoe who makes us care about Sarah and believe that she is like many girls who have been before her who would do anything to be recognised and have their dreams come true. Her statement that she “is not like a million other girls” perfectly captures the drive and passion that gives her air to breathe each day.
With quite a simple narrative, the direction in Starry Eyes raises it from the pack. With the use of dark empty frames and an intrusive camera that gets into the horror that unfolds the directors force their viewer to get stuck right in the journey that Sarah embarks on. Each shot helps us to empathise with Sarah, with scenes in the beginning of the film showing the inner-workings of her dreams and fears. Even when she begins to go to the extremes not once did I ever question her motives and that is true testament of the film makers who have made a powerful and thought provoking film. Oh and don’t worry you gore hounds, trust me there is plenty of gore to go around. I do mean plenty!
Running at 90 minutes there are parts in the latter of the film that meander and lose tension but this is probably because the rest has such a break neck pace that throttles the viewer. With the year nearly up this has popped up to become easily one of the best horrors of the year. Starry Eyes gives a perfect case study of a horror with blood and brains to spare. Go see this. The rise to stardom has never been so bloody and delicious.
Words: Daniel Klemens