Frights Unknown: Starry Eyes
Welcome to Frights Unknown, Story Screen’s new (hopefully) semi-regular column on underrated, under the radar, or otherwise underappreciated horror flicks! The intention of this column is to provide a quick, spoiler free look at a worthwhile horror film that you may have missed. We’ll hit on what it’s about, why it’s worth watching, and where you can watch it. In this inaugural edition, we’ll take a look at Starry Eyes. As contradictory as putting this at the top of an article may be, I’d always recommend anyone interested in watching a horror movie to go in as blind as possible. However, if you’re looking for a little more information, please read on!
If anyone has ever tried to describe Starry Eyes to you, they most likely described it along the lines as one of the most uncomfortable to watch movies ever made. If you’ve never heard of Starry Eyes, I’m here to tell you: that’s a pretty accurate description. The film is a deeply disturbing look at the seedy underbelly of Hollywood stardom. It melds together genre tropes like paranormal occultism and skin-peeling body horror with a social commentary on the film industry that was starkly ahead of its time.
Starry Eyes is the tale of young actress Sara, (played by relatively unknown but undoubtedly talented Alex Essoe) who is desperate to find her big break as a Hollywood star. A dead end job at a pervy burger joint and a handful of friends with big dreams but little ambition have left her at wit’s end. Her inability to find a leading role has brought her to masochistic tendencies. When a call back from an unnerving production company promises her a chance at a starring role, Sara becomes determined to get the part no matter what the cost. Under the sun-bleached streets of LA, Starry Eyes reveals the rotten core of Hollywood. Through a nightmarish and gory horror trip, the film portrays the destructive nature of the industry through the intoxicating promise of stardom and the devious nature of those who hold the keys.
The film works in a similar manner to other body horror classics such as Videodrome or The Fly, in which the protagonist undergoes a gruesome transformation before the eyes of the viewer. This metamorphosis is the physical manifestation of Sara’s blind ambition. It’s also the result of the destructive nature of the industry itself, one well known for chewing up and spitting out enthusiastic young talent. Starry Eyes is a cautionary tale for those who will do anything to get to the top, and a condemnation of predators that prey upon them. The truly gross out effects help this message really hit home.
What’s most striking about Starry Eyes is its relevance to the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in Hollywood. But Starry Eyes is not a new film. It was released in 2014, long before public accusations of Harvey Weinstein’s abusive behavior led to a massive upheaval within the industry. Starry Eyes may be a cautionary tale of unchecked ambition, but it is also harshly critical of the manipulative nature of powerful Hollywood figures. If the disgusting body horror isn’t enough to make you flinch, the reminder of decades of unchecked corruption and sexual abuse probably will.
A talented cast, gruesome practical effects, and a compelling modern story make Starry Eyes a worthwhile watch. It’s probably not for the faint of heart, as the oppressive tone and startling gore may leave some more squeamish viewers flinching. However, anyone looking for a shocking exploration of ambition and abuse is in for a modern treat.
Starry Eyes is free to stream on Amazon if you’re a prime member and is available to rent on iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu.
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Jack makes drugs for a living, but not necessarily the fun kind. He enjoys international travel and discussing music, movies, and games in excruciating detail.