Jocelyn: Over the years I’ve grown so tired of being let down by new horror films that I’ve practically altogether given up on watching them. Thankfully, bitterness & negativity merely pepper my life rather than permeate. Enter Widmyer & Kölsch’s Starry Eyes, a refreshing take on the Devil-culty goodness that we were so richly reared upon but with the added kidney punch of intelligence, depth, humor & true horror that was delivered by the fearless & exceptional lead Alex Essoe.
Growing up through the “satanic panic” of the 1980s was a life-altering experience for me. In elementary school I vividly recall being hyper-aware of my surroundings, vehicles, people. Everyone was suspect because the air was so thick with secret societies of devil-worship & sacrifice. You’re robbed of a certain level of carefree childhood because your mind is flooded with fantastical satanic imagery, fear & suspicion. Granted, I was the kind of kid who embraced the horror of it all despite the very real fear that I felt. My point for this little tangent is that in a way this film very much feels like an allegorical homage to that place & time that exists within all of us who spent our formative years waiting to tongue the ass of Lucifer & give in to the dark side.
Duane: Being exposed to so many films that scream out for one’s attention and ultimately lead down that bramble-ridden path of disappointment, it’s hard not to be jaded when it comes to any new offering, particularly within the horror genre. So when a film like Starry Eyes comes along that’s actually worth your time it feels like nothing short of a vindication – like there’s actually hope for the future of the genre in spite of this current state of film dystopia.
I wasn’t quite as affected by the whole satanic panic of the 80s, but I have always had an unabashed proclivity for anything devil-cult related. Sadly those types of films are often horrendously campy, played for laughs, and are sparse at that. I went into Starry Eyes very stand-offish but was soon shown the error of my ways. The film is horrifying, engaging, and at times ferociously violent. I appreciated the group dynamic and how it was so grounded in reality. People are pieces of shit and this film isn’t afraid to say exactly that.
J: That group was integral, expertly showcasing the vapid, ignorant, self-centered, exploitive quagmire that Sarah (Alex Essoe) was immersed in daily. It wasn’t just a shitty degrading job or her asshole “friends” that she had to suffer on her quest for stardom – it was the endless attempts & rejections, it was herself, it was wholly pervasive. Because Widmyer & Kölsch both wrote & directed it served the film well, allowing the piece to shine because they treated it with the care & respect that it deserved. They knew that you had to be able to feel Sarah’s inner struggle and desperation and they showcased that beautifully. And once again, Essoe brought the whole thing to life. She gives the film depth & heart by conveying the perfect mixture of naivety & blind ambition. I also really dug the supporting cast, Maria Olsen as The Casting Director had a real Mary Woronov thing going on.
D: Agreed. The scenes that took place at Big Taters both lightened the mood as well as drove home how bleak Sarah’s situation really is. It helps to illustrate her motivations as to why she made the choices she did. The whole cast did an excellent job, especially Louis Dezseran as The Producer. He was so sinister and slimy that it made my skin crawl just looking at him. And when he flashes that toothy grin you just know something horrible is going to occur.
The use of CGI is subtle if at all present, so kudos to the filmmakers on the use of such great practical effects. The kills are imaginative without being ridiculous, and they’re absolutely vicious. I loved that.
J: The scene where Sarah gives in & goes to The Producer’s home was so well crafted. One of the concepts in the film that I really honed in on & loved were the ramifications of accepting Satan into her mouth & swallowing his seed. I can’t tell you how much I loved that what brought about her excruciating deterioration, death & eventual rebirth was predicated on the consumption of semen. That’s something that just hits me right in the sweet spot – it’s smart, unique, sleazy & oh so delectable! And Sarah’s metamorphosis was no small feat, that shit was fucking brutal. It wasn’t just “suck some dick & wake up a star” – it was “suck some dick & suffer like you have never suffered in your life” which is an all-too-important facet of one’s commitment to a life of unholy servitude.
Another aspect that I found interesting was that her “new” self, aside from all the killing & whatnot, she was really only doing things that she should’ve been doing all along: believing in herself, telling all of her “friends” to fuck off, letting go of the fear & the bullshit, putting an end to her victimization & claiming her life as her own, on her terms. In a sense, one could even suggest that it was enlightenment that’s been given to her by the “Morning Star” himself but perhaps I just read too many books on the occult and view mass murder as a stepping stone to greatness. Ha!
D: Well put. I personally found that blowjob scene to be quite distressing.
I do wish they’d have gone a little further at the end of the film though. That last shot of Sarah in the mirror was great, but I found the film left me wanting more. Rarely does a film manage that. I would have liked to have seen her start to savor her success and enjoy the fruits of her labors, so to speak.
J: Yea, there was a weird feeling for me too at the end. You knew where the film was going but it still somehow seemed abrupt. Perhaps that’s just a testament to how good the previous 97 minutes were.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I fucking LOVED the humor & lightness that Pat Healy brought to the screen as her boss! It was brilliantly executed & a welcome shift in mood that served a wonderful purpose – allowing the viewer to breathe & relax a bit before the film comes right back & sinks its claws in deeper. Also, I know I keep going on about Alex’s performance, but it’s what made the film for me. Had that been a lesser actor you not only wouldn’t have felt for her but you literally wouldn’t have seen what she gifted us by fearlessly committing. Maybe as a woman it struck me as particularly terrifying because it stripped her of the little things that we take for granted like your face not betraying you with sickness, hair staying attached to your head, not vomiting worms or bleeding diseased slime from your vagina. Yikes! And those worms were in her mouth! Method! Fuck CGI! She was simply (& grotesquely) marvelous.
Also, buy the soundtrack! I wanted to expand on this, but I can’t write any more lest I quit my day job & start a career jacking off all over this movie alone.
J/D: Starry Eyes is a unique and satisfying film that will likely leave a lasting impression on anyone willing to take it for a test drive. Essential viewing.
**This review was written without the use of the word “meta” which is for lazy, ignorant twats. Grow up. **
Stay tuned for a Public Service Announcement from The Church of Splatter-Day Saints:
The death of the movie poster is a subject that is very near & dear to our hearts. As collectors of these once great works of art it is incumbent upon us to speak out where there is injustice. Jay Shaw’s gorgeous artwork for Starry Eyes was nothing short of inspired perfection. To see the DVD/Blu-ray cover fall victim to senseless marketing is a travesty. Please stop using photoshopped anti-art when you have perfection staring you in the face. Reversible covers are just a way for corporate assholes to have maximum appeal. It’s the principle. We’re all better than this.
(I suddenly feel very Patrick Swayze/Dirty Dancing “Nobody puts Jay Shaw in a corner!”)
Thank you for your time. Please resume your previously scheduled masturbatory activities.
Love & Kisses,
Jocelyn & Duane
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