How far would you go – and what would you do – to become a star?

Sleep with a producer? Kill your friends? Not just metaphorically, but maybe literally, sell your soul to the devil?

That is the intriguing central premise of co-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes, an intoxicating paddle through the very murky waters of Hollywood ‘success’.

Anchored by a brave, hopefully star-making turn from Alex Essoe, this is about as far removed from run-of-the-mill horror fare as you can imagine – and is all the better for it.

Essoe plays Sarah, a struggling actress stumbling from one failed audition to the next, propping up her dreams of being the next big thing with shifts at sleazy fast food joint Big Taters.

Seemingly helping her quest (but in actuality probably holding her back) are a gaggle of wannabe and never-will-be mates who seem intent on putting together an ultra-low budget film of their own.

Sarah lives with a handful of those, and is forced to relive her failures on a daily basis, not helped by constant sly digs from jealous housemate Erin (Fabianne Therese).

Anyways, Sarah decides to throw her hat in the ring for a part in an upcoming horror film – The Silver Scream – being produced by Astraeus Pictures.

Astraeus it seems were a pretty big company back in the day, but mysteriously seem to have disappeared off the map.

But Sarah gets the audition from hell, belittled by the creepy and off-putting casting agents (that include Movie Ramblings fave Maria Olsen).

All seems lost, only for Sarah to get a callback for a second audition, one which calls for her to strip completely naked.

Kolsch and Widmyer’s work could have fallen apart here, even more so in a later scene when the ageing head of Astraeus (Louis Dezseran) forces himself on her, but the film stays the right side of believability by having Sarah recoil in horror and, at first anyway, storm out of the meeting.

But with the rent needing to be paid, and the vision of success so tantalisingly close, the budding starlet is forced into a rethink, sending her into a world of which she has precious little understanding – and virtually no control…..

There is sterling work from the entire cast here, which includes the likes of Noah Segan and cult favourite Pat Healy (as the oh-so sleazy restaurant owner no less).

But this really is Essoe’s show, the role of Sarah coaxing her to bare all (both mentally and physically) on camera – a dazzling mix of vulnerability, coy sexiness, desperation, madness and, as the film progresses, murderous intent.

Essoe is virtually on screen from first second to last – and barely a second of that is wasted.

All that would fall by the wayside though in the hands of duff directors, and Kolsch and Widmyer deliver – throwing us a mix of neon-drenched streets, a seedy underbelly and folk who literally live in their cars.

The pair have also put together a stunning soundtrack which drips with an 80s/old-school synth vibe that helps the overall mood tremendously.

The film has flaws – the walls of plausibility are stretched somewhat at the climax, and there are a handful of ‘would you really do that’ moments.

But these are minor quibbles, with Starry Eyes showing Hollywood at its worst – and horror filmmaking at its best.

Don’t miss it.

DVD Review: Starry Eyes
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

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Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle