I somehow missed this movie when it first came out.. I’d heard whisperings about a kind of horror ‘Fame’ – young Hollywood starlet who’ll do anything to make it in the big time, but then I forgot all about it until recently mentioned in a ‘best horrors of 2014’ list.
This is a slow burn, psychological, body-horror film, and if you enjoy films on the more ‘languid’ side of things than this is for you.
It features a jaw dropping performance by Alex Essoe who commits to the role so hard it makes you uncomfortable, and is written and directed by relative newcomers Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer who have created a very dark tale indeed.
Sarah, the aspiring actress with the ‘starry eyes’ is stuck in a dead end job as a ‘Tater girl’ serving junk food to the masses whilst dreaming of future stardom, plugging away at auditions and going home to her actorly friends who seem to want her to fail as much as succeed – I guess for the up and comers your best friend is also your greatest competition and friendship accompanies a side order of snarky jealousy. When her ‘big break’ arrives in the form of an audition for shadowy types supposedly producing a movie called ‘The Silver Scream ‘ (yeah sounds like a winner!) Sarah allows herself to be humiliated by them and thus sets the tone for the relationship she will enjoy with these powerful elite. Soon sacrifices must be made, and Sarah herself will transform into something altogether different.
There were many things to enjoy here – as previously mentioned it has a powerhouse performance by Essoe – truly star-making as I’m sure it will be, the cinematography is softly seedy which I like and sets the tone for the undercurrent is discomfort you feel watching this story unfold. Uniformly well acted by the surrounding players and the effects and make up are believably graphic and anatomically ‘correct’. I liked that people didn’t die ‘easy’, I liked the last brutal twenty minutes or so when everything tips over and Sarah stops ‘playing’. I liked the idea of the story, though I feel it was not executed as cleanly or as intelligently as it could have been.
What was not so successful for me was the script – it jumped over details too much, leaving gaping questions and leaps of logic, it failed to make these people real, clearly defined characters and therefore ultimately the denouement lacked the punch we could’ve felt had these people been more than cyphers created to form generic ‘friend circle’. When Sarah’s body started to almost literally fall apart, her sickness clearly evident – why were people arguing about rent and bills? Whose friends are these that don’t care to get her some goddamn help? Even a stranger would have called an ambulance… And how did we go from an audition of hair pulling to suggestions of murder that suddenly seem perfectly reasonable to our protagonist? Her journey to this point was not shown well enough to accept this turn of events. I didn’t buy it.
I did enjoy a lot of this film but its closeness to being something better was frustrating and worse then if it had just been bad or had lower expectations of itself, and didn’t seem to believe it was saying something ‘real’ about Hollywood (this aspect of the film was not in any way properly realized and paled in comparison to ‘Society’ from the 80’s which certainly knew how to make this point I spades), a great performance and a dreamy atmosphere are not enough if you want to make a horror to remember, hints at an underground ‘Hollywood elite’ are not enough to make this a darkly satirical look at the cost of fame.
In the end, it was neither chilling nor clever.
If there is a secret Hollywood sect, they’re safe for now..