M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on November 14, 2014. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Shudder!

STARRY EYES (2014)

Directed by Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Written by Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Starring Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabianne Therese, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, Pat Healy, Nick Simmons, Maria Olsen, Marc Senter, Louis Dezseran, Danny Minnick
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

The best horror films I can think of take a speck of the real world and tweak it to horrific lengths. That’s what STARRY EYES does–a bleak and twisted, albeit not so totally inaccurate, comment on the state of Hollywood and our dreams of stardom and fame.

Alex Essoe offers up an ironically star-making performance as Sarah, a waitress at a Hooters knockoff restaurant (managed by the always awesome Pat Healy) who dreams of becoming a star and is annoyed by her friends who also dream of stardom. After bombing yet another audition, Sarah has a breakdown in the women’s bathroom screaming and tearing her hair out by the roots. Unbeknownst to her, the casting agent is in the bathroom and witnesses the freak out and sees something in Sarah she did not convey in her audition. Asking her to audition again, we see how this girl we want to root for is really pretty unhinged as she freaks out in front of both casting agents on cue, impressing them with her guttural and primal tantrum. This opens the door to stardom for Sarah, but with that stardom, of course, comes a price.

The standout of the film for me was Essoe’s performance. At first, I was drawn into Sarah’s plight. Having to wear skimpy clothing and serve fatty foods to mouth-breathing customers is something we think she has too much talent for. But after the freak out and as she progresses up the ladder to possible stardom, a darker and less likable side comes out and it is brave for this story and this actress to show it. While it’s subtle at first, as Sarah chuckles when a friend slips and falls, breaking her nose, this cruel streak grows and grows to gargantuan proportions as the film makes a comment that in order to become a star, all forms of humanity and soul must be left behind. What proceeds is not a comfortable film, but it is rich in subtext on how much you are willing to give in order to achieve a dream.

If there’s a criticism I have for STARRY EYES is that it’s coming out late in the game in terms of movies focusing on painful and awful transformation. Films like THANATOMORPHOSE and CONTRACTED were notable last year as both being very effective in depicting the deterioration of one person because of the lifestyle they were leading. In those films, the ugliness inside of them seemed to come out in their personality and visibly be seen as the movie progresses. This similar theme occurs with STARRY EYES as the latter half of the film depicts Essoe writhing and squirming in pain as whatever is happening to her after her “audition” seems to be changing her from the inside out. Only because I had seen two very effective films recently depicting practically the same thing did these scenes lose the intended gross-out effect it was going for. But since some of you haven’t seen THANATOMORPHOSE or CONTRACTED, this may not be an issue for you.

The ending of STARRY EYES is bombastic, graphic, and poetic all at once. Kolsch and Widmyer highlight the ugliness and beauty of superstar aspirations evenly and all at once. And while STARRY EYES might not be a great film to watch if you have dreams to make it big one day, it is an entertaining and harrowing film that is very difficult to shake after viewing. Strong performances, a great ear for music, and a well-executed theme make STARRY EYES stand out even if it is reminiscent of other recent body horror films.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!


#13 – STARRY EYES
#14 – THE BOY
#15 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#16 – THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME
#17 – THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
#18 – CUB
#19 – POD
#20 – BACKCOUNTRY
#21 – CLOSER TO GOD
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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