Starry Eyes made a big splash at South by Southwest in 2014. It was partially funded by Kickstarter, which I somehow missed out on entirely because I would have backed it for the exclusive Mondo poster. This film topped most horror fan’s lists for 2014, alongside The Babadook, which I didn’t care for, but Branden loved. I refused to watch Starry Eyes, but the comparisons to Lynch had me intrigued. I loved the idea of the plot, but I still couldn’t pull the trigger. Since that time of ignorance, I’ve watched the film twice.
Sarah has dreams of being an actress. Her day job is at a Hooters knock-off, and she lives with a friend whose other friends are yuppie scum that she hates. She auditions for a new role with Astraeus Pictures where she meets the snarky film crew, and is refused the job. She runs to the bathroom and has a complete meltdown, ripping her hair out and screaming. The woman from the audition shows up and asks her to come back and do what she just did in front of her male counterpart. Thus begins Sarah’s journey into the Hollywood elite.
One part Rosemary’s Baby, one part Muholland Dr., Starry Eyes delivers a creepy, downward spiral of a young actress who may or may not be dealing with some mental issues. The film blends the lines of reality and truth, and leaves you second-guessing what is real and what isn’t. Once the film’s finale kicks in, it never stops getting crazier and crazier. One thing is for certain: they go balls to the wall for the finish.
You might not know Alex Essoe, but after seeing this film, you will remember her performance. She plays our lead, Sarah, and delivers an honest, fresh-faced look, and by the end I was impressed with what she was willing to do for the role. There’s a scene involving bugs, and instead of using CGI or effects, she offers to use the real things. That’s just nasty, and shows pure dedication. I also enjoyed Amanda Fuller as Sarah’s friend Tracy. The rest of the cast was filled with unknown actors, and while I wasn’t blown away by any of their performances, they deliver the hipster vibe perfectly.
Starry Eyes is beautifully shot, and full of energy. There’s a scene where Sarah is asked to disrobe, and the room grows dark, and the camera’s flash continues to go off. It’s hypnotic and creepy. There are a few other scenes that are excellent, mostly due to the script. The late night drinking scene at the pool that is perfectly acted, and the dialogue is spot-on. Then there is the rent scene, which has just enough snark and truthfulness about these friendships that I wanted to applaud Sarah for saying it. The film also features a fantastic soundtrack that really helped set the tone.
Starry Eyes isn’t as amazing as I had heard, but maybe my expectations were too high, or maybe I was expecting a different kind of horror film. During my first viewing I was nodding off after a long day at work, and it made the final 30 minutes feel creepy and disjointed. I thought about the film during my work shift the next day, and decided I had to watch it again. It’s just as crazy the second time around, and definitely more coherent, which is a plus. Fortunately, it didn’t lose the creepy factor at all. Fans of Lynch’s style of storytelling might get the most enjoyment out of this film, and if you stick with it, Starry Eyes offers a rewarding finale.