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Starry Eyes – 7

January 31, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cast – Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabianne Therese, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, Pat Healy, Nick Simmons, Maria Olsen

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Women suffering psychological torture to attain what they want in life are a real life tragedy, and it is the basis of horror in Starry Eyes. I can’t think of many horror films involving an actor in a film, so this idea is unique in a day where genre fans are begging for something “new”. On top of this, the film dabbles into the cult sub-genre. Writing/directing duo Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch, Widmyer’s employer, who happens to be famed author Chuck Paluhniuk, played a heavy role in helping the filmmakers attain the financial support they needed to make the film, which winds up as one of 2014’s most unique.

Alex Essoe stars as Sarah, an optimistic yet severely struggling actress desperate for her big break. When she finally succeeds at an audition for a major studio, she discovers the heinous secret behind the Hollywood elites she wishes to join.

The story begins with a strong emphasis on the struggle Sarah faces as she pursues her dream to become an actress. She works a dead-end job as a waitress for a lowly restaurant and a loser of a boss. In her free time she attends casting calls and the end result is usually the same – she never gets called. It is obvious she has talent, but the only person who is taking notice to it is…herself. Now when I say she “desires” to be an actress, I mean that in the most extreme way possible. After failed casting calls she makes drastic, psychotic decisions that leave her physically maimed. She finally gets her break though, when a notable studio gives her a shot after taking notice to her drive and determination. The casting directors are very odd, but don’t be turned off by them right away – their mannerisms serve a purpose. When she receives a second call back from the company her audition takes a more drastic turn than the first, and things begin to get fishy as I detected that something was very wrong. It isn’t until the 31st minute of the film when we start to get an idea behind what is going on with her auditions and the shady figures behind them. Without giving too much away, I can only say that there is a daunting secret behind how the Hollywood elites achieved their stardom, and Sarah has a decision to make. She can turn them down and keep struggling, or she can give in and pay her dues. I don’t think I am spoiling anything in saying that she chooses the latter.

The story begins a bit slow but you should still find yourself engaged thanks to the hell that Alex puts herself through. Basically, her torture is your entertainment. The first act is all development, and the second act is where I felt like the film started to lose me. The action is there, but for me it was unlikable. Alex begins to experience extreme changes in her persona and physical appearance, and her friends are taking the brunt of it. She deteriorates her relationships with those who have stood by her in her quest for stardom, and for no obvious reason (at the time). The second act left me thinking that I had maybe made a mistake in thinking this would be a good effort, but the third act changed all that. It is during the third act where the psychological horror becomes physical, and boy does it reach extreme levels. It is during this act that the first kill hits the screen, a whole 78 minutes into the experience. Trust me when I say this about the kill and the subsequent kills, they are worth the wait. It is not often that a third act is so good that it pretty much makes up for the rest of the film, but I believe that is the case here with Starry Eyes. The horror that erupted in this final act left me in awe, and to top it off the film’s climax includes a revelation that I did not see coming.

The directors did a fair job executing this film, with their talent showing during the awesome third act. They get things started pretty well, giving us gloomy atmosphere and proper “odd” execution of the quirky characters seen in the first act. Actress Alex Essoe gave a tremendous performance as Sarah, going from one emotional extreme to the other and delivering some of the best kills I have seen this year. If it were not for her incredible performance early on I am not sure I would have been as into the flick as I was, so she deserves a lot of credit for that. The directors definitely left their mark on the genre this year with the final act thanks to their execution of the kills. These kill sequences were brutal, shot in full-frontal fashion, drawn out to keep you squirming, and they come via live-action effects…which means you get some great gore. Hopefully these directors stick around and maintain the horror seen in this effort.

Overall, Starry Eyes is an incredible experience that I suggest to those who want to see something unique and brutal. Keep in mind that it may try your patience at first, but the payoff is well worth the wait.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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Creature – 4

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Director – Fred Andrews

Cast – Mehcad Brooks, Serinda Swan, Sid Haig, Daniel Bernhardt, Amanda Fuller, Dillon Casey, Lauren Schneider

Release Year – 2011

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I first saw an advertisement for Creature while waiting for Apollo 18 to start I thought to myself “I have to see that film.” due to it coming off in the same vein as one of my favorite horror films ever, Hatchet. I was very surprised to see that this film was given a fairly wide theatrical release (1,500 screens), and immediately jumped on the opportunity to watch this on the silver screen, which was the biggest mistake I’d made in…oh, about a week – when I saw the disappointing Apollo 18. While I did not go into Creature with high expectations per say, I did expect to enjoy the film, and that was far from the case with this one.

Six friends on a weekend camping trip take a detour to satisfy their curiosity involving an old Louisiana legend and find much more than they bargained for.

I was really hoping for a chance to see a cheezy and zany horror film on the big screen, and perhaps I should have known better than to expect Creature to deliver such goods to me. From first-time writer/director Fred Andrews, we are given a plot we have seen numerous times, but one that I find joy in so long as it is executed properly. We all know the idea of a group of unsuspecting friends looking to have a good time suddenly stumbling upon a bloodthirsty backwoods killer and suffering terrible trauma as they try to survive the ordeal, and Andrews’ story throws in a fresh idea in giving us a protagonist part human and part alligator. The idea is cheezy as hell, which is why I expected some whacky action to take part in this piece, and despite a fair amount of action thrown in this film the writing and execution were very poor.

There are numerous writing faults in this piece, with a lot having to do with character play but most having to do with the story. While the overall storyline is cool, the screenplay is horrible due to many brainless ideas thrown in that did nothing to improve the story and only ruin it. The reasoning behind the backwoods locals doing what they do for the antagonist, known as Grimley, was stupid and uninteresting, which was also the case for many smaller scenes in the film that are not even worth mentioning (big spoilers). With films like this you expect some pretty awesome kills, but we were given few even remotely worthwhile, although plenty of kills were written into the film to at least keep me somewhat engaged in what was going on. Andrews’ screenplay does not come without at least one great positive, which was the usage of our eventual main protagonist, Niles. His character was fantastic from beginning to end, and was far from the usual African-American character that we see in horror films. He was serious, likeable, and kicked plenty of ass by the time the end credits rolled, however he is the only good thing written into this film.

Andrews’ direction/execution is what really made this film a sour effort, and possibly ruined his name as far as the genre is concerned. The film starts off well and we are given awesome atmosphere and sets that engaged the viewer, and along with positive acting performances from Sig Haig(The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1,000 Corpses), his cajun buddies, and Mehcad Brooks as the awesome Niles it would seem that Andrews’ direction is not that bad overall, but that is where the positives stop. Andrews ruined everything he accomplished by giving us pathetic execution of the kill sequences, little gore, and horrendous camerawork made even worse by slow-motion effects. The look of the creature was OK, and his mannerisms were somewhat creepy at times, but in the end this creature was used to little potential and never delivered the horror that should have erupted from a film in this sub-genre.

Overall, Creature is a failed effort that should have never been given a theatrical release when so many better films of equal budget and filmmaking experience suffer DTV outcomes. The story is a decent one that gives us some different ideas, but these ideas are poorly executed and the horror is never remotely worthwhile, which along with poor direction overall makes for a film you should definitely avoid.

Rating: 4/10

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