As we continue down our descent into the depths of our October focus on horror films, Starry Eyes is our next film review. Making its debut at the 2014 SXSW Festival, Starry Eyes made waves and won awards, but festival films don’t always translate into good sit on your couch cinema. To make things worse, Netflix picked the worst possible picture to showcase the film on their streaming service (it’s like the old days of hitting the video store…if the cover looked bad you weren’t going to flip it over to see what it was about). Speaking of what it’s about…the description of Starry Eyes doesn’t exactly evoke “must see” feelings either: “A hopeful young starlet uncovers the ominous origins of the Hollywood elite and enters into a deadly agreement in exchange for fame and fortune.” Yep, yawn!
You’re probably wondering why I’m spending so much time describing what could be potentially bad about the film. Well, it’s because it’s been in my Netflix queue for over a year and the reasons above are why I never got around to watching it. It wasn’t until it was recommended via a website that I decided to give it a go, and boy am I glad I did! Not only does Starry Eyes rise above the promising but usually artfully shallow festival stigma, generic horror film cover stereotypes, and even more generic description, it transcends all of that into one slow build, gut churning, and very satisfying horror film.
As mentioned earlier, the film follows an aspiring actress who is desperate to escape her exploitive diner waitress job, her shallow “friends”, and small time, no frills existence. She lands a big audition but not only does it not go as she planned, it was bizarre and left her feeling shaken. Much to her surprise she ends up getting a call back to another reading only to find it even more bizarre than the first! Again, she’s sure she didn’t get the job and her life spirals back down into the normalcy she’s trying so hard to escape. Just as she’s lost all hope she’s called to meet the producer, but you guessed it, things go badly again (very badly), and the true meat of the film begins here. Again, you’re probably thinking to yourself, none of this sounds interesting, but I’m leaving out a tremendous amount of spoilers that you really need to experience yourself.
Starry Eyes has it all…a creepy secret society, gross out horror to the extreme, and beyond all of that, it is brutal (you don’t even know). Top it all off with one killer synth soundtrack and you’ve got one of the best horror films of the past decade. It’s almost criminal how poorly it has been promoted and packaged. It has a retro-present feel to it…a film with its roots firmly in the 70’s satanic hysteria, but still very aware of the here and now. It marries the two beautifully (and savagely!).