Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Starry Eyes: Ready for Her Close-Up?
only Astraeus Pictures employed the traditional Hollywood casting couch, Sarah
Walker would be much better off. Instead, they will play sadistic games with
her head and her life in Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes (trailer here), which opens today
in New York.
business is a tough racket. Walker is reasonably talented and attractive, but
she just cannot catch a break. It hardly helps when one of her so-called
friends steals a gig out from under. Frankly, they are not really her friends,
they are her roommate’s friends. Her life is already like the darkside of Melrose Place and it will get steadily
darker when she auditions for Astraeus.
though the indie studio has been somewhat off their game lately, scoring the lead
in their latest horror movie would be a career-making coup. Unfortunately,
Walker bombs during the weirdly confrontational audition, but when the casting
director happens to witness her massively self-loathing breakdown in the ladies
room, complete with hair-pulling and paroxysms, Astraeus is suddenly interested
they will hardly fulfill all her dreams just like that. The callbacks will be
truly sinister. Yet, each time Walker draws a line in the sand, she inevitably
comes crawling back. Indeed, one of the most disturbing aspects of Starry is her willing complicity in her
own damnation (for lack of a better word).
there are teases of demonic horror in Starry
(that the one-sheet duly capitalizes on), its first two thirds are more closely
akin to a claustrophobic Polanski psycho-thriller. However, when the gloves
come off in the final act, it gets spectacularly gory. Yet, in a way it comes
as a relief, finally providing a break from the more realistically grounded and
disturbing mental cat-and-mouse game that came before. It might even earn a
laugh or two if you have a particularly evil sense of humor.
Starry will not be to
everyone’s tastes (boy, is that safe to say), but the way it eviscerates Hollywood
fakeness certainly sets it apart from the field. Being an insincere frenemy
will get you painfully dead in Starry.
As disturbing as Walker’s arc gets, Kölsch & Widmyer’s screenplay is a lot
like a vintage E.C. comic—everybody who gets it probably had it coming.
Walker, Alex Essoe absolutely goes for broke. She has moments that rival Isabel
Adjani’s epic freak-out in Żuławski’s Possession.
However, she cannot be accused of overly excessive histrionics (like say, Meryl
Streep in Osage County, since we’re
still not ready to let that one go), because the film’s dramatic context truly
demands something viscerally explosive—and Essoe delivers in spades.
the who’s-and-what’s of Astraeus remain murky, Louis Dezseran makes a
distinctively sleazy patrician villain as the producer and implied studio boss,
admirably gnawing on scenery in the old school Hammer tradition. Emerging indie
genre star Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills,
Compliance, The Innkeepers) also takes a memorable turn Carl, Walker’s boss
at a Hooter’s style scarf-and-barf, who might be what passes for a likable
character in Starry.
finally lowers the curtain, you are likely to hear loud exhaling throughout
the theater. It is a darkly intense film, but also unusually well executed by genre
standards. Arguably, there is even an element of Bergman-esque angst buried
amid the body horror and bloody carnage. Recommended for adventurous cult
cinema fans, Starry Eyes opens today
(11/14) in New York at the Village East.
Labels: Body Horror, Horror Movies