STARRY EYES (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

StarryEyes poster

Directed by: Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer

Written by: Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabianne Therese, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, Pat Healy & Marc Senter

Ever wonder why certain actors and actresses have careers in Hollywood? A low-budget horror flick, that combines three various styles of scares with a biting satirical edge, offers a troubling possible answer to these concerns. I had been hearing about this film since its early production stages and was hesitantly excited to see it. As awesome as some independent horror flicks may be, the genre is overpopulated with crap. STARRY EYES falls on the better side of things aided by a clever script, solid cast, and mix of different horror sensibilities. Though this one might not work for some people, I could see STARRY EYES going down as a possible cult classic.

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Hollywood is a place of broken dreams. Millions of souls have been shattered trying to become the next famous celebrity. Sarah is one of these many sad people trying to make a living off her passion and failing around every corner. She works as a waitress, but her passion seems to be failing auditions for any part that comes across her eye. After auditioning for a new horror film produced by a big studio, Sarah finds herself at a crossroads where she can either follow her dream (corrupting herself) or do the right thing (remaining a starving artist). Her decision has unexpected consequences that manifest themselves physically onto her body and a nasty transformation begins.

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Newcomer Alex Essoe steals the show with a fearless performance. She injects enough sympathy into Sarah that I felt for her struggles and the awkward audition scenes are painfully realistic. There’s also a darker element to this character that makes her Faustian pact into something believable. She makes dumb decisions, but that’s inherent in what her character craves and how she wants to go about achieving stardom. A few recognizable faces spring out of the cast too. Amanda Fuller is good as Sarah’s genuinely caring, but somewhat loose-lipped roommate. Pat Healy and Marc Senter (both solid actors in their own right) aren’t given much to do, but make the most of the scenes they have.

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STARRY EYES is admirable in trying to achieve three very different types of horror in the same movie. Its success rate is a bit muddled given inconsistent pacing and a final third that drops the ball in a couple of areas. The story works best as a dark slow-burn that merely hints at the madness to come in the latter half. There’s an effective, unnerving sense of foreboding that drips onto the screen as each scene ramps up the tension little by little. The last third is where all the suspense should have paid off. This is where the film changes from psychological slow-burn into a mix of body-horror and slasher territory. The combination of these two visceral subgenres feels a tad rushed though. The body-horror angle almost feels like a quick take on last year’s CONTRACTED. When the film enters slasher territory, a couple of kills go so over-the-top that they feel cheesy. The movie fixes some of the damage with a legitimately creepy final scene, but the last third almost seems like an entirely different movie in an awkward way.

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STARRY EYES is a creepy little flick that almost falls apart in its inconsistent final act. There are solid ideas that aren’t given enough time to fully develop in the last third, but the slow-burn and character development are both impressive in the first hour. The film is ambitious beyond belief as it’s the first flick I’ve seen to weave Polanski madness, Cronenberg biology, and 70’s satanic panic all at once. Its overall impact might not be as big as one hopes, but STARRY EYES still comes recommended for horror fans who are the least bit curious about it.

Grade: B-

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