MOVIE REVIEW: STARRY EYES / CERT: 18 / DIRECTORS: KEVIN KÖLSCH, DENNIS WIDMYER / SCREENPLAY: KEVIN KÖLSCH, DENNIS WIDMYER / STARRING: ALEX ESSOE, AMANDA FULLER, NOAH SEGAN / RELEASE DATE: TBC
What would you do to be a star? That’s the central question of Starry Eyes, which examines the extraordinary lengths one struggling actress will go to for a shot at stardom.
Sarah (Alex Essoe) is one of a group of wannabe stars in LA. Like a substantial proportion of the city’s inhabitants, she spends the majority of her time waiting tables, unsuccessfully attending auditions, and dreaming of making it big. Her and her friends spend their spare time sitting round swimming pools in cheap apartment blocks, dreaming of making their own low budget film, but getting no closer to achieving their dreams.
Then Sarah gets a shot at the big time. Following an unsuccessful audition for the lead in a horror movie, she’s caught self- harming. Impressed by the lengths she’s prepared to go to, she’s given a second chance via a rather unconventional audition process.
As Sarah edges closer to the role, she’s pushed further and further. Once she fully commits to doing whatever it takes, the movie descends into Cronenbergian body horror, as she begins both a physical and mental deterioration. Her transformation from beautiful starlet to emotional and physical wreck is convincing, especially given the film’s tiny budget (largely the result of a Kickstarter campaign), featuring impressive, gory effects and a terrific central performance from Essoe
Less convincingly played is the introduction of satanic elements – all creepy looking film business types and mysterious hooded figures. These scenes aren’t played with much originality and feel derivative of other, better films. You get the distinct impression that writer/directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have watched Rosemary’s Baby one too many times.
Ultimately, Starry Eyes is effectively unsettling but doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts. The body horror is well handled, with some genuinely creepy sequences. Alex Essoe, however, is fantastic and fully deserves to hit the big time. Hopefully her transformation will be a bit more conventional than Sarah’s.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10
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