Celluloid Screams: Starry Eyes (2014)
Thinking of a Hollywood movie career? Well think again! Starry Eyes takes a bleak and cynical look at the price of fame within a stylish backdrop in Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s occult feature.
Determined to succeed and become a star, struggling actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) does whatever it takes to become the leading lady in the latest film of famed production company Astraeus Pictures. Working in a thankless waitressing job at a greasy diner and co-habiting with a group of fellow striving actors and filmmakers, Sarah’s frustrations and desire for success leads her down a dark and sinister path to the point of no return.
When Starry Eyes was first announced as part of this year’s festival line-up, it carried enough ambiguity about it through its trailer, generating plenty of intrigue. A lone woman walks the streets of LA, framed in a way to demonstrate that the city of dreams is bigger than she’ll ever be to a synth-tastic soundtrack that could be straight out of a Dario Argento film (Suspiria being the one Starry Eyes emulates the most). Starry Eyes was therefore one of the most-anticipated films of 2014 with its concept holding a great appeal.
For the most part Starry Eyes is consistent in what it does. It’s dark and places a sense of dread throughout as it portrays the movie industry in an unpleasant light. There’s a disturbing vibe as Sarah becomes more and more distant from those around her and so far removed from reality as she chases the dream. Sarah is quite a complex character as it’s difficult to know whether to root for her, from the beginning it’s insinuated that she looks down on her actor friends, holding a sense of superiority through her quiet confidence and she doesn’t manage redeem herself the deeper we get into her story. This is something unusual for a character-centred piece. While Sarah’s characterisation’s problematic at the same time it’s a daring move on the filmmakers part to create this cutthroat character who we feel is no more deserving than anyone else within the film.
Sarah idolizes the starlets of the past and her goal is to be in their position whatever the cost. We observe her unethical auditions that become more and more nightmarish as they go on. The flashing lights effect that’s used creates a feeling of disorientation and the performances The Casting Director (Maria Olsen), The Assistant (Mark Senter) and the Producer (Louis Dezeran) get under the skin with their exceptionally creepy presences. The fact they are also nameless characters ramps up the creep factor as they could be any filmmaking company anywhere in Hollywood and questions that other than Sarah, how many other girls is this happening to; placing emphasis on the ficklness of the industry.
The point where Starry Eyes falls flat is it goes from being this mysterious and startling chiller to what can only be described as a generic slasher. It loses its way completely creating uninterest and disappointment. We see what’s coming as it doesn’t attempt to move away from predictability. As Caitlyn stated in her review of the film, it shifts directions on too many occasions that it becomes a chore to watch which is ultimately a shame. The finale therefore manages to leave the audience cold.
Starry Eyes is a mesmerizing, interesting and ambitious film that takes the dark side of fame to a whole other disturbing level. It certainly stands out in its own way. 80’s pop group Bros once asked, “When will I be famous?” well the answer is when you’re prepared to sacrifice your sanity for a slice of the Hollywood machine.
Hayley Alice Roberts.