Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer are the Writing-directing duo behind Starry Eyes, a dark tale about the pursuit of fame but also the desperation to be taken seriously, to be validated and this is what sets Starry Eyes apart.
It could so easily be just a horror flick about someone’s desperation to be become famous but it’s deeper than that. Our lead Sarah (Alex Essoe) is a young actress struggling to make her big break. She has a group of friends who are also actors and other creative types but these friends seek to undermine Sarah by making passive aggressive comments and are shown to be largely unsupportive and jealous.
We see Sarah at an audition for a typically rude and disinterested casting agent and his assistant for a film called The Silver Scream. Sarah gives a pretty good audition only to be quickly dismissed by the agent. Upset and disappointed Sarah runs to the toilets and becomes so distraught that she started pulling and ripping her hair, with sickening sound effects I might add. She calms down and as she opens the toilet door she is suddenly face to face with the casting directors creepy assistant who was impressed by what she just heard. A little confused Sarah is brought back into the audition room and is directed to recreate her meltdown that she had in the toilet, specifically the hair pulling. A confused Sarah ends up recreating her self harm and after screaming and more hair pulling they dismiss her just as coldly as before.
Sarah works at a Hooters style restaurant (Big Taters) while she goes on auditions and so she goes back to work expecting to hear nothing but to her surprise she is offered a second audition. She arrives for the comeback and is asked to disrobe, initially hesitant Sarah uncovers after the casting assistant tells her to open herself up so that she might transform. Sarah clearly thinking she means transform from a nobody to a star, but there’s a little more to it than that. As she stands in front of a screen a light starts flashing on and off and Sarah begins to relax and ends up enjoying the experience. It’s after this that Sarah starts to exhibit some unusual behaviour, she quits her job at Big taters and laughs when her friend broke her nose (I would’ve laughed too mind you, karma’s a bitch).
Up next, a meeting with The Producer who shows Sarah that the old casting couch is alive and well, he puts his hand on her knee and slowly glides higher and higher, all the while telling sarah how he can transform her. Sarah is horrified at the suggestion and leaves the meeting but eventually returns, such is the power of fame. She meets with The Producer again and performs oral sex. She awakes at home with no idea what happened or how she got home but she looks a little worse for wear. Infact Sarah begins to look sick, her skin is ashen, lips chapped and from here on out she deteriorates further.
This is where things really get fun, the first half of the film is more like a unsettling drama than a horror, we feel sorry for Sarah who is talented but insecure, a bad combination for anyone attempting to make it big in Hollywood. She’s a perfectly nice girl who’s pretty much surrounded by arseholes and could easily be taken advantage of but it’s once Sarah has her final meeting with The Producer that the horror element is dialed up to 11.
As Sarah’s body starts to deteriorate the film taken on a Cronenberg quality, Sarah pulls at her nails and teeth as they start to fall out and her behaviour is erratic. She becomes violent and the gore really hits the fan. I don’t want to spoil anything so that’s where I’ll leave things.
Starry Eyes is a solid piece of work that was partially funded by Kickstarter. The score is fantastic, the electro sound helps make the film feel a little older than it is and helps to make the year the film is set in ambiguous. Well directed and cleverly constructed to make you question exactly what it is you’re seeing, the film has a few layers to it and without giving anything away I think the ending is rather brilliant.
Will Sarah be reborn into a star of the silver screen? Who are these people offering her auditions? You’ll have to watch to find out but I’d say if what you’ve read so far appeals to you then do check this film out. It’s a highlight of independant horror.