Review: Starry Eyes

2014/10/10 00:30:10 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

A blood-soaked cautionary tale about the price of fame and sacrificing your own identity in the name of ambition, Starry Eyes is yet another fantastic reminder that the indie genre world is truly the best (and generally only) place fans can find ambitious and challenging horror tales these days.

Starry Eyes follows Sarah (Alex Essoe), a young actress in Hollywood struggling to find her first break in the business. As she goes on audition after audition, Sarah receives nothing but rejection from casting agents until she shows up for a part in a mysterious indie horror movie. After she initially thinks she’s blown her chance at her ‘big break,’ Sarah explodes into another one of her violent fits of rage, something that impresses the talent scouts and garners the fresh-faced talent a special second audition with the studio’s head producer (Louis Dezseran).  After Sarah is asked to perform certain ‘favors’ for her new employer, she initially resists but then soon changes her mind and succumbing to the temptation of fame and fortune. Of course, the decision comes with a price, causing Sarah to undergo a horrific transformation that will cost the aspiring actress to lose everything and everyone she loves along the way.

For anyone who has ever aspired for bigger and better things in life, let Starry Eyes remind you that the old saying is true- be careful what you wish for. Co-written and co-directed by up-and-coming filmmakers Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer, their collaboration here is a startling gut-punch that never flinches from the horrific violence that follows Sarah. And despite the fact that the true horrors of their story don’t really kick in until the third act, Kolsch and Widmeyer do a fantastic job of blending a darkly comedic tone with a general sense of unease masterfully, making the entire bizarre journey to Starry Eyes’ penultimate finale wholly satisfying.

The heavy-lifting in Starry Eyes is left to Essoe, herself also a relative newcomer to the industry, and the actress shines with a revelatory performance that is the perfect storm of innocence and madness. Noah Segan (Looper), Marc Senter (The Lost), Fabianne Therese (The Aggression Scale), and Amanda Fuller (Cheap Thrills) all have supporting roles in Starry Eyes and I must tip my hat to both directors for giving this talented crop of actors all a chance to shine with fully-realized characters that make Sarah’s decent into madness all the more heartbreaking and visceral. Pat Healy, another favorite of mine, also pops up in the film as Sarah’s well-meaning boss, and proves that his talents are immeasurable. Not many actors would be able to take on a role like Healy does in Starry Eyes, giving audiences so much insight into his character with so little actual screen-time. Terrific work all around.

Starry Eyes also benefits from some stunning camera work from cinematographer Adam Bricker, who does a wonderful job of visually turning Los Angeles into a frenzied Wonderland of sorts and making this often-used backdrop in cinema feel like something we hadn’t seen before- which is not an easy feat. Jonathan Snipes also provides Starry Eyes with a pulsating synth score that immerses you deeper and deeper into the insanity that’s engulfing Sarah at every turn and does an excellent job of intensifying many of the film’s more unsettling moments as well.

An age-old fable given a modern Hollywood twist, Starry Eyes is a sublimely satirical and horrific examination of the real price of blind ambition that isn’t afraid to let things get nasty or weird. Anchored by a breakout performance by Essoe, Starry Eyes is by far one of the more captivating and unforgettable horror movies I’ve seen this year. I cannot recommend it enough.

Movie Score: 4/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.