Starry Eyes

US | 2014 | Directed by Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer

Logline: A hopeful young starlet is made privy to the sinister agenda of a Hollywood production house and is drawn into a deadly agreement in exchange for fame and fortune.

Sarah (Alexandra Essoe) has stars in her eyes. Stuck in a demeaning waitressing job (at Hot Taties, no less), she humours her wannabe, so-called friends she hangs with, but she knows in her heart of hearts this is all a waste of time, she needs to be fast-tracked to the fame she desires so hard. Past auditions have left her pulling her hair out, literally, but the casting call she undertakes for Astereas Pictures is unlike any other. She must bare all, emotionally and physically, if she is to land the plum role for their horror movie The Silver Scream.

Sarah gets a call back, and she is delighted. Meanwhile her friend Danny (Noah Segan) is looking to make a low-budget indie flick and he wants Sarah to play the lead, but Sarah has bigger fish to fry. So she jumps from the frying pan into the fire, but not out of choice, more like default. The Casting Director (Maria Olsen) likes what she sees and Sarah finds herself in the company of the creepy Producer (Louis Dezseran), a sleaze elite.

Before Sarah can say, “I’m ready for my close-up!” she finds the casting couch isn’t quite as soft as she anticipated. Like the age-old tale of Faust, there’ll be hell to pay.

Starry Eyes is the second feature for co-directors Kolsch and Widmyer, who also penned the screenplay. It exudes a 70s and 80s vibe, and a deliciously twisted one at that. The occult element and the central character’s naïveté from Ti West’s The House of the Devil, the oh so blackly comic tone of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, the body-horror of recent indie fave Contracted, even the nightmarish craving for perfection from Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan , all converge in this tinsel realm of black magic realism.

My hat goes off to Alex Essoe, who delivers probably the best performance I’ve seen all year. Watch out for this young lady, she’s going places! But kudos must go to the directors for top-notch casting all-round. The always-good Amanda Fuller plays Sarah’s concerned housemate Tracy, and Fabianne Therese is strong as Danny’s lover Erin, a thorn in Sarah’s side. Poor Ashley (Natalie Castillo), one of the background buddies, who comes to a most gruesome demise - horror kill of the year, most definitely!

Starry Eyes is one of those great horror movies that spends much of its time building character and vibe, edging its story arc along, tugging the tension threads, tightening the thriller element, and then in its third act the true nightmare spills forth, the fetid walls come tumbling down, and the inferno flares as the damaged soul has been bought and is now being consumed. Starry Eyes is one elegantly resonant, darkly glittering horror act, and one of my favourite movies of the year.