Starry Eyes is a smart, disturbing horror movie that cuts away a layer of plastic coating to show the flesh and bone of wannabe stars. That flesh and bone can be, more often than not, dead and broken, but it's still there. It still makes up part of a business constructed on hopes, chance, exploitation, entitlement, and vanity. Not ALL of it is that way, but most of it is.
Alex Essoe is the young woman who keeps trying to battle her way through her dayjob, while simultaneously looking for that big break into the movie business. She ends up auditioning for a breakthrough role with a couple of people who insist on pushing her way beyond her comfort zone. As the process moves further along, things get stranger and stranger. But it IS a great part.
Playing out like a cross between "Son Of Celluloid" (from the incomparable Books Of Blood, written by Clive Barker), Mulholland Dr. and any number of Cronenberg movies, Starry Eyes is a bold movie that won't be for everyone. Thankfully, those who like it should REALLY like it.
Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer share both the writing and directing duties, which allows them to give each other a pat on the back. There may be moments of surreal madness here and there, especially in the third act, but it's all held together by a sharp script, one that constantly delivers seemingly innocent lines of dialogue all coated in a thing film of venom.
But that script would be nothing without the capable talents of the main performers, who help to clarify the meaning of each sentence, and even each word, uttered. Their body language turns almost every compliment upside down, and makes every innocent question an exploratory probe for anything that can be exploited. Essoe is the centrepiece, of course, and gives the kind of brilliant, brave performance that the film deserves. Pat Healy and Noah Segan both do fine with supporting roles. Both actors probably rank as the most recognisable faces in the cast, and both are given one or two great scenes apiece. Maria Olsen and Marc Senter are suitably off-kilter as the people looking to cast a movie, and Louis Dezseran is slightly creepy and able to make your skin crawl even as he flashes his showbiz grin and attempts to convince Essoe's character that he can help her out if he knows that she's willing to go further than anyone else. Amanda Fuller, Fabianne Theresa, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, and Nick Simmons flesh out the cast, all portraying young hopefuls who want to break into the world of movies, but hopefully on their own terms.
Add the moody score by Jonathan Snipes, impressive work on every technical aspect (from cinematography to editing to lighting, etc.), and an ending that manages to leave you thinking about everything without also becoming frustrated, and you have something pretty special. In fact, it's my new favourite horror of the year, and I highly recommend it to all genre fans who are willing to try something a bit different from the norm.