The question is as old as cinema itself: what would you do for stardom? Sarah is an aspiring actress rotting in a two-bit job surrounded by dead-end pretentious hipster friends. But she is different – she knows she will make it no matter what. So when Astraeus Pictures offers her the lead in their latest production, ‘Silent Scream’, she grasps the opportunity with both hands. However, Astraeus Pictures is a strange company and Sarah will be plunged into uncharted depths of darkness before she can become the star she believes herself to be.
Like a head-on collision between Rosermary’s Baby and Day of the Locust, Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch’s brilliant Starry Eyes is a cautionary tale like no other: set among the dregs behind the glamour of LA, the film paints the portrait of a woman metamorphosing both literally and figuratively. Boasting eye-popping special effects and a killer synth score, Starry Eyes harks back to the Hollywood cinema of a bygone era: smart, frightening and terrifically acted, this is the sort of filmmaking that the genre deserves to see more often.
The directing duo handle the mood with aplomb: LA feels like a sun-drenched nightmare, and as Alex starts to lose her grip on reality, her surroundings change accordingly. The music plays an important role: evocative of Carpenter et al., its synth edges go some way towards creating a vision of LA in which things are askew – the sense that something is wrong not just with Sarah but everyone occupying the city is an idea that gets reiterated at every turn.
It is to the credit of the directors that in Astraeus Pictures they create a wholly believable organization that offers Sarah a Faustian pact: by keeping their presence largely confined to the shadows, only ever feeding enough information to keep the viewer intrigued, Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch ensure the threat that they present remains uncertain and terrifying throughout.
On a side note, it is a joy to see Pat Healy in the film, however small his role, and special mention must go to Sarah’s group of friends, who seem to combine the worst qualities of young filmmakers in a way that is never too over the top.
Starry Eyes builds to an eye-gouging, head-spinning climax without ever losing track of its aim and it is this singularity of vision that made it a favourite at Film4 FrightFest and one of the clear winners of this year’s genre offerings.
Watch the trailer: