Starry Eyes (Film) Review

Starry_PosterIt’s time for Horror Month, in honour of the best time of year, and the best holiday, obviously: Halloween!

I don’t have to tell you that I’m a massive horror fan, it must be obvious by now that it’s hands down my favourite genre.

This sometimes mystifies me though, since it’s the hardest to get right and most modern horrors fall very far of the marker that could make them excellent. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been really engaged in a film and then suddenly, crushingly disappointed by a plot device, novelty scare tactic or more often than not: the ending. It makes me so mad!

We’ll see if the films in this series manage to break the curse. I’m sure there’ll be some real stinkers in the collection, and that’s okay. The stinkers are the reason Jillian and I got started in the first place.

Anyone remember, Killer Mermaid/The Monkey’s Paw? Exactly.

Shall we begin? This week is my choice BTW.

As always *Spoilers!*

Starry Eyes (2014)

Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Stars: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan

IMDB Synopsis: A hopeful young starlet uncovers the ominous origins of the Hollywood elite and enters into a deadly agreement in exchange for fame and fortune.

My Review:

“Do you like my tight pants?”

Sarah is a would-be actress who works at Big Taters (a Hooters style affair with tighter trousers). Her big dream is to make it as an actress, of course and it’s obvious her heart isn’t really in the Big Taters lifestyle. Alas, she’s not doing that well at the dream chasing, despite all the work she’s putting in. Sarah also has a worrying habit that helps her deal with stress, trichotillomania.

Sarah is quite a solitary woman with no apparent family. She has a roommate though, Tracy and a group of friends who all seem to have their hand in acting and film-making. At a party Sarah attends with Tracy we meet some of these friends; the obviously smitten (with Sarah) Danny and the group’s mean girls, Erin and Ashley.

Erin in particular is a total bitch, continually competing with Sarah to be the group’s successful actress. If Erin spoke to me the way she does Sarah, for the record, I would have punched her in the face a long time ago. But Sarah is somewhat passive in this context.

After the party, Sarah receives a call about a job she’d previously applied for online. A mysterious film called The Silver Scream being made by powerful production company Astraeus Pictures. That night she has a horrible nightmare about the audition but is a little more together when she arrives at the designated time and place the next day. There are many girls in attendance, one of whom comes out of the audition space in tears.

“Do do do do, do do do do, do do do… no wait. Do do do do, do do do dooooooo!”

The audition is overseen by an indifferent (and bitchier) Chuck Bass (Marc Senter) and the po-faced Casting Director (Maria Olsen). Neither seem particularly impressed by Sarah, and she faces the usual ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you’ line as she leaves. She’s understandably distraught and retires to the toilet to ‘punish’ herself for her failures.

While having her signature hair-tearing fit in a stall, the Casting Director stumbles upon her and tells Sarah that they might not have seen everything they needed to from her. So she’s back in, where she’s invited to recreate her self-flagellation in front of them both. She’s reluctant at first but then concedes, finally managing to stir a little interest in them.

Later, Chuck Bass calls her and invites her in for a second audition, telling her this one will be much different. And different it is as they ask her to shed her inhibitions (pants) and let herself go in the name of art. Sarah manages to pass this phase of the audition by laughing maniacally in front of a flashing light with her boobs out. Go Sarah!

But has she done enough? It would seem so as suddenly the head honcho Producer wants to meet her and Sarah gets cocky, packing in her job at Big Taters. Not wanting to spoil too much, the meeting doesn’t go according to plan for either party and Sarah is left feeling foolish and a big fat failure again. (Think casting couch).

It's all fun and games until someone asks for a blow job
It’s all fun and games until someone asks for a blow job

She confides all this in Tracy but Tracy tells the group. Sarah tries to get back to reality, returning to Big Tater’s to ask for her job back, goes back to hanging out with her frenemies. Danny gets her to agree to appear in his latest amateur film. All seems like it will go back to normal, except in a moment of impulse (and on an Ecstasy high), Sarah decides she’s willing to do whatever it takes for the part of a lifetime after all.

On her second meeting with the Producer, Sarah is asked if she’s willing to shed everything she knows for a new life, one given to her by Astraeus Pictures. Is she willing to shed her body, the way she sees things, etc – all for this chance and for the chance to have her picture on billboards, in theatres, everywhere?

Sounds dreadful to me, personally but Sarah doesn’t hesitate to say yes, please. She also has to carry out a puke-inducing sex act on The Producer, don’t think she got away with it that easily. The Producer (Louis Dezseran) is a sleazy old man unfortunately, not a beautiful George Clooney-type, even though nothing makes the casting couch and subsequent exploitation of vulnerable women okay, no matter what the couch looks like, obvs.

We've all been there
We’ve all been there

Anyway, Sarah does what she feels she’s gotta do and wakes up in her own bed the next morning. She’s in weird pain and not feeling that well, what’s worse is that she’s not hearing back from Astraeus, which sends her into a panic. She keeps calling and hearing nothing, visiting the offices – still nothing.

In the meantime, and feeling worse every day, Sarah finally loses her job, falls out with Tracy and her other friends and generally looks horrific. She starts to lose her hair, her fingernails – everything is decaying around and within her. She receives a call back from The Producer just as she feels she’s going to finally die.

He taunts her, telling her she can either choose death or embrace the transformation they talked about. Well, can you guess what Sarah decides?

We've all been there, Part II
We’ve all been there, Part II

In the final segment of this film, she has a few more things she needs to take care of before she’s fully ready to embrace her new role and lifestyle but they’re killer ones, if you know what I’m saying. I’ll park this review up now but not before the Questions Section, obviously. You ready?

Will Sarah get the goddamn part after all this? Will it be worth it? Is there even a part to begin with? What will become of her friendships and of Sarah herself? Who are those weird black masked weirdos in the shadows? Who or what the fuck is an Astraeus really?

And, the main question on my lips is, why the hell would anyone want to be famous?

What's wrong with a bloody Body Shop voucher?
What’s wrong with a bloody Body Shop voucher?

My Thoughts: 

Hm. This is an interesting one. I mean, the concept was fresher than your average and I liked it for that. It was atmospheric and not too horribly acted. I like the film within a film devise, even if we never quite make it onto a movie set.

In places this could have been quicker paced but the lead up to Sarah giving it all up for the part of a lifetime is otherwise fine and the final bloody horror of what she has to do is fantastically gory. There’s some delightful vengeance in the horror scenes.

And the fact that by the end, I felt sorry for the people around Sarah says something, I guess, even though most of the characters are pretty 2D. I felt particularly for Tracy, who genuinely seem to care for Sarah’s welfare, despite her blabbermouth tendencies. Even horrible Erin doesn’t deserve her gruesome demise, even though it is satisfying AF.

One scene is absolutely horrifying (and brilliant) – and you’ll probably know it when you see it.

“I love my life… lalala.”

I actually didn’t really like or sympathise with Sarah that much. She starts out quite insipid and then just plods along on her solo mission like a bit of a wet wipe. Sure, she goes all out in the bloody climax but I think I would like to have rooted for her a little more.

All in all, I enjoyed this one. I was also able to convince G to watch with me, which is nice. He wasn’t such a fan but does think the ending saved it. So there’s his view.

My Rating: 3.5/5 (4 for the idea but 3.5 for the execution).

What did Jill think? Let’s go see shall we?

The Flawless Mr Hoffman

esq-philip-seymour-hoffman-1112-lgA year ago today the world lost one of the most incredible actors of our generation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was 46 when he passed away. When I found out I was numb for a little while (but managed to write this the day after, though I can’t remember doing it). I felt numb in that way that you can only really articulate by saying “I can’t believe it” over and over. It is an odd feeling to grieve for someone you’ve never met, only admired on a big screen, but it is still genuine emotion.

This loss is a massive one. There is nothing more I can add to that. It’s all been said already.

But I wanted to mark this horrible anniversary with a celebration of some kind, rather than dwell on melancholy. There were times in my life when I was blown away by this man. He made me laugh and cry; and sometimes he scared me. I felt like he spoke to me on a personal level and I think that’s the beauty of a greatly talented person.

I believed him always.

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I’m hard pressed really to refine my favourite PSH moments. It would be very hard to narrow down my most loved performances to just a handful.

Well, sort of. I mean, of course he was exceptional as Truman Capote in Capote. He’s been great in nearly every film he put his name to (with a few exceptions), stealing scenes left right and centre.

But by far my favourite PSH turn is in Flawless. As Rusty, PSH took my admiration to a whole new level. This is how I choose to remember him, as the ballsy female impersonator with a whole lot of heart. (I reviewed the film a few years ago, here).

Rusty is the ultimate Groupie for the Underdog. Cheerleader for the brow beaten and the bullied. Fighting for the rights of the LGBT and being fucking fabulous while she does it. Reeling off one liners like rapid machine gun fire, she is exactly the kind of person you need in your life, and on your side.

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Rusty is the person she is because of all the things she’s been/is going through and is the sum of all her own insecurities, all her flaws. And that’s what makes her beautiful and strong.

I used to watch this movie religiously, at least once a month. I watched it not long after PSH died and it was hard to do. I still miss him.

So this year I’ll be respectfully remembering the man I loved for over a decade, who made even the smallest character study a fascinating one, who ruled every scene he was in.

To you, PSH, forever.

Uncle Robin 1951 – 2014

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-32089824-2798-3916Yesterday most of the world woke up to the news that Robin Williams had passed away.

I was in a decidedly un-glamorous place as I scrolled through Facebook and found out for myself (embarrassing source of all my news). My subsequent scream from the bathroom caused Mr Bee to get very annoyed when he realised I hadn’t just been injured or attacked.

It is always strange when a beloved celebrity passes away. This year we have already been rocked by the passing of another favourite, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and in similarly shocking circumstances (all still alleged). Hoffman from a heroin overdose in his own bathroom and now Williams, who is believed to have taken his own life.

It’s just so very sad. I guess when you think about death at a not even that old age, you hope for something quick and painless. Tragic, of course but natural. To consider the ongoing suffering of somebody famous for making others feel better is a bitter punchline in itself.

This morning as I was stomping around the park thinking about this subject and of what Robin meant to me, I got to thinking about the joke Rorschach tells in Watchmen:

I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

Moral of the story: you never know.

Now, I don’t feel qualified to comment on what sort of torment must lead a person to such a hopeless place. I don’t think it’s the cowards way out though.

I know a few things about mental illness and depression, I know a bit about addiction but all my experience is second hand. I know it’s serious and that we should be able to talk about it openly, without judgment and help should be readily available. It goes further than that though and I understand this.

I just feel incredibly sad. I feel as though the world will genuinely have an empty hole in it now. Robin always felt like an uncle to me and when we spoke about him, Mr Bee and I called him ‘Uncle Robin’.

Had he been my real uncle (and I do love my actual uncles), I imagine Robin would have been able to fix anything with a hairy armed bear hug. Nothing could be bad within that embrace and nothing would ever light up the room like that smile. That laugh.

Now this is my fantasy, of an uncle I’ll never have but I’m sure his own children felt that way about him. I’m sure his friends, his wife, all his loved ones felt that way too. I hope he’s at peace now.

Rest easy, Peter Pan.