We all know what it is like to want something so badly, that we would do *anything* for it. Or at least we think we would. But what if you were faced with an opportunity to get exactly what you wanted, but there was a cost? Unfortunately, there are entirely too many people in the world that would make a deal with the devil, per se, to get what they want, be that fortune, fame, anything. It's easy to play armchair quarterback and say "it's not worth it, I'd never do that", but when faced with that chance right in front of you, to make your dream come true, a lot of people would be tempted, no matter the cost.
Our main character Sarah, is a small fish in a big pond, an aspiring actress, trying to make her way in Hollywood. Obviously, a lot of people want to be big name actors for the fame, but no one wants it quite as bad as Sarah. She lives, sleeps, and breathes this idea of becoming a great star. I'm not sure she's even anywhere near as in love with the actual craft of acting as she is with the idea of the fame that goes with it. Working at a job that she feels is beneath her (waiting tables), she is constantly going on auditions. She goes on one for a film called "The Silver Scream", though, a horror film being made by a movie studio that is trying to make a comeback. After a very awkward and disappointing audition in front of some very odd people, knowing she blew her shot, she goes off to the bathroom and has an almost violent reaction to her failure. She has a bit of what I guess you'd call a nervous tick, where she has a violent fit and pulls her hair out. Unbeknownst to her, the woman from the audition is in the bathroom, and basically says "why didn't you show us *that* side of you?". So when she goes back in, she performs a disturbing audition where she lays in the floor, screams, pulling her hair, contorting her body is unnatural ways.
She gets a callback, and gets a meeting with the producer. As she gets further into the process, she sees the the glamour might not be all it's cracked up to be. After some inappropriate things, she begins to think twice about all of this, but her binding ambition won't take a backseat. This producer promises Sarah that he can make her the star that she's always dreamed of being, and he can make all of her dreams come true. The alliteration here is that she is very literally making a deal with the devil. Who knew, but the old guard in Hollywood is essentially a Satanic cult, straight out of 'Eyes Wide Shut'. Seemingly on top of the world, Sarah's reality starts to unravel. She starts hallucinating, her body begins going through changes, we'll say. How much of this is real and how much is in her mind? Telling you some of the gorier details of her transformation will spoil some of the more surprising scenes in the movie, some are things you can see coming, others not so much.
The last act of the movie is somewhat polarizing for a lot of people, as with most modern horror movies. The first 2/3rds are very much in the vein of David Lynch, that form of storytelling that shines the light on the darkness of the Hollywood culture via melodrama, starkness, and shocking and disturbing imagery. Then it seems to slide into just a more violent shade, focusing on Sarah's physical descent and changes where she is becoming her idea of the perfect movie star. She's willing to do anything to anyone that gets in her way of attaining that. The build up of the first 2/3rd is just a great movie, with sharp satire and interesting performances. How you react to the last act is entirely up to you. Personally, I loved it. It had it's fair share of shocking moments, great gore, lots of nastiness, and came to a fitting conclusion.
Last year, "Starry Eyes" was the critical darling of indie horror. It was one of those low budget, small movies that toured the festival circuit and amassed quite a following. As a regular reader and listener of movie podcasts, I'd heard a ton about this movie way before I even seen it. Was it worth the hype? Well, yes and no. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have a "The Force Awakens"-level of hype for it, but I'm always excited when a horror movie comes along that is almost universally loved, people rave about, etc. It's certainly a very good movie, due to it's originality and ambition to be something more than the norm, but the best part is the performance of Alex Essoe as Sarah. If this had been mainstream, studio movie, it would be a star-making performance, which is ironic if you think about it. I'm excited to see where her career goes from here, as she's definitely a talent to watch. She is magnetising to look at on the screen. This movie is currently streaming on Netflix, and I can think of a million worse ways to spend 90 minutes of your life. Check it out.
"Starry Eyes" gets 7.5 Satanic Hollywood sex cults out of 10!
Here's the original trailer