I’m starting to get a little perturbed at the powers that be and the joke they are playing on all of us horror fans. First of all, the best horror films that I’ve seen so far this year are (almost all) scheduled for release after Halloween. Considering that Poltergeist, another Paranormal Activity installment, and Cooties were all originally scheduled to headline this Halloween season, it’s not a wonder why the independent market didn’t want to compete with Hollywood in October. But, since none of those films actually hit theaters and we were left with Dracula Untold (meh), Annabelle (ok), and Ouija (meh), the Halloween season felt quite lacking in my humble opinion.
Why couldn’t films like Starry Eyes come out just a few weeks earlier instead waiting until November 14th? It’s a wonderful film that appeals to casual and die hard fans alike with its slow burn build up and May-like atmosphere and tempo. The cast is outstanding, but this film hinges on Alex Essoe‘s performance and she absolutely nails it. The directors (Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer) prove themselves more than competent behind the camera, since this is their script as well, know what to do with the story. Again…why wait until after Halloween to release this?
Sarah (Essoe) is an actress/waitress trying to get her first break in Hollywood. She lives with fellow actress Tracy (Amanda Fuller) who seems to always be just one step ahead of Sarah in the cut throat industry. Sarah spends her days at a Hooter-esque restaurant to pay her bills, and spends her days off auditioning and dreaming of fame. It’s an odd life she lives as she doesn’t quite fit into any of these worlds. She’s socially and professionally awkward, and she’s quite unsure and unhappy with herself.
After a so-so audition and rejection for a film entitled The Silver Scream, Sarah runs to the bathroom in anger. She locks herself in a stall and just loses it. It culminates in a hair pulling scene that is rather cringe worthy. When Sarah opens the stall door, she finds the casting director standing there (Scaretissue friend Maria Olsen). She asks Sarah to “do it again” for the other casting agent, and Sarah resists. After a second rejection, Sarah throws a jaw dropping fit to their delight.
The film then takes off into Mulholland Drive territory. The dark underside of Hollywood is showcased while Sarah is “groomed” for the role. It feels like a dream, but not quite a good dream. Starry Eyes feels like the parts of a dream you can’t quite remember upon waking. It’s dark, it’s disjointed, and it doesn’t quite make sense. The culmination for Sarah is getting the role, but the events leading up to it don’t make sense to her (nor should they). I wonder how many famous actresses feel the same way. Kolsch and Widmyer handle this perfectly and effectively build suspense. While the comparisons to Mulholland Drive are easy to make, it’s the similarities to the film May that make it endearing.
Starry Eyes‘ Sarah is a perfect first time lead role Alex Essoe. The film is her vehicle to shine, and she does. From her socially awkward stature and awful auditions through her character’s transformation, Essoe relishes in being the empty vessel Sarah. We see the hints of what she wants to be and even a shot of illusory superiority that both drives and hides inside her. The rest of the cast is quite well rounded, and even the supporting cast tend to be more than just one dimensional characters (stereotypical…yes. one dimensional….no.).
Starry Eyes is a great film watch, and has been dominating the film festival scene since its premier at SXSW this spring. It is definitely worth a watch. One of my favorite films of 2014, I will be recommending this one for a while. It’s one of those films you can watch for a scare but are haunted by its social commentary and unease. You can follow Starry Eyes on twitter (@starryeyesfilm), like it on facebook (StarryEyesFilm), or the latest information about it on its official site www.starryeyesfilm.com.