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Advance Review – Starry Eyes

A still from the horror film Starry Eyes

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Starry Eyes follows Sarah Walker, an aspiring actress in Los Angles as she tries to make ends meet by working a dead end job. She regularly attends casting calls and auditions but has yet to experience her big break. Finally her luck starts to change: Sarah goes on an audition that leads to several call backs and she is eventually offered the part in an exciting project. This all seems like good news but she quickly learns that the role may cost her more than she has bargained for.

Starry Eyes is written and directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. The pair previously collaborated on the 2009 thriller Absence. While I sometimes find that there is a struggle between directors when there is more than one at the helm, that was not the case here. I actually forgot that there were two directors at work on this picture. The film flows smoothly as if it came from one mind.

The screenplay is also very well put together. There were several times where I thought it was going to go for the easy scare or the most conventional option and every time, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kolsch and Widmyer opted to take their script in a more innovative and original direction.

The film stars Alex Essoe (Reaper) as Sarah. Essoe does a remarkable job of bringing a complex and multifaceted character to life. This film, more so than a lot of the other titles I’ve checked out lately, lives or dies by the performance of its lead. Sarah is haunting and her desperation is palpable. Essoe sells the performance seemingly effortlessly. Parts of this film actually made me physically uncomfortable to watch. Seeing Sarah abuse herself was painfully realistic to the point where I almost wanted to look away but I had to keep watching because I was so impressed by her performance.

In terms of supporting performances, Essoe’s costar Pat Healy basically steals every scene he is in. Healy plays Sarah’s manager at Big Taters – a Hooter’s style restaurant. Healy, once again, shows just how versatile a performer he is. He can play a nerd, he can play a creep, he can play a perv of a restaurant manager and he can do all of those roles as effortlessly as anyone else would change a lightbulb. If you aren’t already aware of Healy’s work, be sure to check into some of his other turns in genre film. He is excellent in the E.L. Katz helmed Cheap Thrills and was also great in Ti West’s The Innkeepers.

Starry Eyes serves as something of a thinly veiled metaphor for what is required to make it as an actor in Los Angeles. It effectively captures the very real struggle that aspiring actors, models, and any entertainment professional not receiving steady work goes through. And the decisions that Sarah makes don’t necessarily seem that far fetched for someone with her disposition. She’s down on her luck and wants more than anything in the world to be a successful actor. So, the choices she makes don’t seem as outrageous as they might if Essoe hadn’t done such a believable job bringing Sarah to life.

Another thing that really stood out to me about Starry Eyes is the score. The score is perfectly befitting to the film. It’s equal parts dark and angelic and that basically sums up Sarah’s demeanor – at the beginning of the film – in a sentence. As she evolves into something much darker, the music stays the same but it still manages to be fitting to her newly donned persona.

As far as criticism of the film, I was a little irritated that some of the supporting characters didn’t have a lot of purpose and seemed somewhat two-dimensional in comparison with a lead that is very well developed. Also, there was a subplot with a group of Sarah’s friends working on a film that didn’t really amount to anything. When the film was over, I was left wondering why that entire subplot with the film wasn’t just cut.

The film will be released by MPI via various VOD content providers and in select theaters beginning November 14, 2014. I would definitely suggest checking this one out!

WICKED RATING: 7/10  [usr 7]

Director(s): Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer
Writer(s): Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer
Stars: Alex Essoe, Pat Healy
Release: November 14, 2014
Studio/ Production Co: MPI
Language: English
Length: 98 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Supernatural Horror

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dogs, and cat hat(s).
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