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A gruesome take on ambition which also tosses some serious shade at Hollywood. A young woman living in LA longs to become a star and she is ultimately willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. The film rather cleverly exploits the grey area between psychological and supernatural horror, fusing elements of "Mulholland Drive" and "Rosemary's Baby", amongst others. And there is a thread of very dark humor that runs throughout most of the film. (One could fairly call the film itself ambitious.) The lead, trapped on all sides by people bent on manipulation, puts in a crisp, chilling performance heavy with despair, isolation and want. The rest of the cast holds up its end as well, particularly the reptilian representatives of the movie studio. Overall, it is the film's wide range of events and emotions that make it so interesting but also so diabolically complicated. An effective and bleak cautionary tale that you may like but not necessarily love.
Starry Eyes is a very disturbing and at times, gruesome horror flick that may be a metaphor for loosing one’s soul in the pursuit of fame and fortune…in this case, literally. The film tells the story of emotionally fragile, wannabe actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) who lives with a group of hipster acting hopefuls and works at a degrading Hooters-esque fast food restaurant. She answers an ad for a horror film to be made by Astraeus Pictures, a company renown for such films and gets a strange audition to say the least. The more auditions she goes on for the film, the more bizarre the auditions get till she meets the creepy producer (Louis Dezseran) and he wants something very inappropriate from her. At first Sarah refuses but, the more hopeless her quest for stardom appears, the more she may be willing to give in to his demands. Unbeknownst to Sarah, Astraeus is far more than just a film studio and wants something far more than simple casting couch behavior…and Sarah might sacrifice literally everything to get what she wants.
This movie is a very disturbing horror that evokes Rosemary’s Baby and the work of David Lynch at times, with it’s sinister cult, somewhat surreal approach and explosions of vicious and gruesome violence. It is an exaggerated telling of someone sacrificing their life and soul for a chance at Hollywood stardom and writers/directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer use the cult-like Astraeus Pictures to symbolize the inner circle of Hollywood fame that some might even kill to become part of. They place their already emotionally fragile Sarah into a situation where she is desperate enough to sacrifice everything for her dream, but, as this is a horror film, that ‘everything’ is literal as is the application of the word sacrifice. They skillfully and effectively follow Sarah’s transformation, as the person she was dies away and a new person evolves, one that will kill those she feels have wronged her or, are in her way. The results are chilling, especially when Sarah turns violent towards her one-time friends. It’s a very unsettling ride and even to a hardened horror movie fan, some of the violence is savage enough to evoke a strong response. Graphic violence aside, the film is just very creepy at times with the bizarre employees of the sinister studio and mysterious cloaked figures that seem to follow Sarah, as her physical and mental downward spiral continues toward whatever end is coming. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer also have a simple yet effective visual style and their atmospheric film is aided by some nice shadowy cinematography by Adam Bricker and a John Carpenter-ish score by Jonathan Snipes.
As for the cast, it’s mostly Alex Essoe’s show and she is really strong here and helps make this work so well. She at first gives us a sweet but, somewhat damaged young woman who wants to give meaning to her mundane life by achieving the Hollywood fame she’s always dreamed of. Once she gives herself over to the strange people at the studio, the actress takes us on a startling and disturbing transformation that would be just as effective without the well-executed make-up effects. Essoe gives it her all and she is downright scary at times whereas moments before, she seemed unable to ‘hurt a fly’ as Norman Bates would say. A really good performance and she is supported by an effective cast of relative unknowns as her actor friends and cult members alike. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer get good work out of their players and it helps make this film effective as it is.
I liked this movie, if ‘liked’ is a word that can be applied to a film that is creepy and sometimes absolutely vicious. It is a very effective horror and gives a very literal and sinister nature to the whole concept of sacrificing all to become one of Hollywood’s elite. It has an effective cast, including a knock-out performance from Alex Essoe as Sarah and some very gruesome gore and make-up FX. A very unnerving and sometimes savagely violent horror with a chilling atmosphere that lasts after it’s over. Also stars The Innkeepers’ Pat Healy as Sarah’s boss at The Big Taters fast food restaurant.
Dark scary movie for the masses, but if you are prone to believe that an evil dark force control "actors" on the screen, in the news, in politics, etc., you will find this insightful. It is the old story of selling the soul to the devil for fame and wealth.
This film purports to examine the dark side of ambition and the degree to which we are willing to prostitute ourselves. It aptly exposes the fact that service industry jobs are, in essence, prostitution. Regrettably, this film drops the ball by having the protagonist lose all agency. She did not consciously choose to become evil. She was, in the end, willing to sell herself for fame but her descent into savage evil was in no way voluntary. So, this film that tried to deal with sexism in the film industry was itself, sexist. On the plus side, this film has great acting and wonderfully realistic dialog and character interaction. On top of that, it is the most visceral violent film I have seen since Irreversible.
Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2020
Could have been......so much more. More intelligent insight into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood industry machine. Instead, it ended up being an unnecessary waste of time with where the plot actually went. Actually laughed at the stupidity of it all when I realized what was going on. Could I see an imbedded underlying message of ‘kill or be killed’? If it were done well, then maybe yes. In this case, it was just a very silly hard nope. Just so...silly.
Starry Eyes has to be the most over-hyped, over-rated horror movie in the last 10 years. Comes across as a "Rosemary's Baby" ripoff...So at the end the main protagonist is turned into a mannequin, given a dress and wig as a reward for being Satan's disciple, and has Creepy Green Eyes (which should have been the title of the movie). Two stars for warning about be careful what you wish for, and the casting couch of Hollywood. But overall, a huge disappointment.
Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2014
A very under-rated and obscure low budget horror film that is one of those rare finds that makes the search worth the effort. This is an interesting supernatural horror film that tells the story of a young woman and aspiring actress who is willing to do almost anything to - finally - have her dream of becoming an actress come true... I've actually rented this one twice and may do so again in the future. I defintely recommend this for anyone interested in the type of story I've described here and you'll find in the product description. Alexandra Essoe plays the role to perfection and was very easy to sympathize and empapthize with as you watch her struggle with what she's willing to give up to chase her dream... I won't spoil the story with any further info, but I can say I definitely recommend this one.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 8, 2015
Blimey, what to make of this one? A strange, unsettling blend of psychological drama and body horror - it's not perfect but always interesting and works on a couple of different levels (although you can argue that sometimes it's to be endured rather than enjoyed).
It starts as the story of a young waitress/actress, just about surviving in a seedy LA environment. After attending a rather bizarre audition, things start to slowly take a turn towards the insane - I won't say too much more as it'll be more fun/weird/horrific that way. Rest assured, the slow build will eventually give way to intense, bloody carnage which is all the more impactful.
The whole things got a creeping, bothersome atmosphere throughout, enhanced by the thudding score that seems to have been ripped straight out of 80's cinema. The performances are solid at worst including a fine, committed turn from Alexandra Essoe as the young starlet who events are revolving around. So overall, if you've got the stomach for it, then it's a rewarding, scathing, different take on the Hollywood machine.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 25, 2019
Brilliant thriller about an aspiring actress, Sarah, who works at a dead-end fast food place, and is looking to break into movies. She attends a strange audition for a mysterious production company, and things go really bad for her. A great film in the area of Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut", but with more gore, and a weird ending.
A very good horror film IMO. A pretty waitress in a dead end job is desperate to make it big on the silver screen in Hollywood, and is drawn into a circle of sinister devil worshippers. This is an exciting and riveting drama that delivers gore and plays with your expectations. Very good acting, action and dialogue and some horrific scenes. Very worthwhile.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 29, 2015
I really enjoyed this movie, it was well acted, soundtrack also added to atmosphere. This is a welcome change to those 'found footage' dvds which are becoming very tiresome. This movie also had unexpected gory ending "-be careful what you wish for" is the moral warning here!!