FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 1, 2015

Day 1: STARRY EYES (2014)

"I am not a million other girls."

As someone who has done a fuck ton of theater, I have been on both sides of the table at an audition plenty of times. Each side is wonderful and excruciating. Everyone can imagine what it's like for an actor. You might be there for a cold reading, or maybe you've had time to rehearse. You could perform a scene from the show you're auditioning for, or you could bust out some monologue you've been working on forever. Regardless, you've got a few minutes (if you're lucky) to impress, then you're out the door.

Honestly, though, I found the other side of the table more difficult. Face after eager, hopeful face, doing whatever they can to get your approval, to be The One you cast. The ever-so-expensive headshots with poses chosen according to the audition; is it a comedy? Best to provide a picture where you're making a very slightly wacky face–a crooked smile, a wryly raised eyebrow–so they know you can be quirky and funny. Trying out for a lawyer role? Use the one where you're in a blazer, maybe wearing glasses with your hair up in a Sensible Bun so they know you can portray someone who can say things like "Habeus corpus, Your Honor!" or what-the-fuck-ever. Then on to the next, and to the next, and the next. I remember one time, an actor "just happened" to have a box of donuts with him, no really, he just stopped, and wouldn't we like to have some, he'll just leave them right there on the table, please, they're very good?

It was all that hope, my heart couldn't really take it. I mean, I loved it in that soul-crushing way, you know? These people, all trying. Whatever their true motivations were, however noble or superficial–whether they simply loved the creative process or they just wanted to tell stories or they only wanted to see their face on the cover of People magazine–whatever, they were putting themselves out there, hoping to be picked. I couldn't help but wonder about them all, where they'd end up. Some might go on to be regular working actors, on stage or on screen. There was always a chance they could end up FAMOUS. But for so many, there would likely come that moment where they say "Well, I tried." They would stop with the auditioning, they wouldn't get new headshots, acting would become a dream of the past. Sometimes they would go on to better things, to a career they're more suited for, a life more fulfilling. But that moment...I love making theater, I love love love it, but that moment is too much for me to think about every time someone walks into the room. I decided that I would rather find my own Dreamlanders and make my own shit forever than take a chance that someone would ever try to give me a box of donuts again.

I'm telling you all this because man, it all came flooding back to me last night whilst watching Starry Eyes, wherein hopeful actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) goes to...let's say extreme lengths in her bid for fame and fortune. "Dreams require sacrifice," says the mysterious and powerful film producer. When hard work and talent aren't enough, how far will Sarah go to prove she's worthy of a leading role? (SPOILER: she does more than bring the guy a box of donuts.)

Some of you suggested in the comments here that I'd love this movie and guess what: HOLY SHIT DID I. Starry Eyes begins as a slow burn character study and ends up a violent, super gory, body horror-flavored look at the price of fame and the history of Hollywood. It's like someone took some of the themes of Mulholland Dr., the movie that Contracted wanted to be (or should have been), a tiny dab of Suspiria, some actresses and other Los Angelenos I have known, and a splash of '80s-inspired soundtrack goodness and blended it all up. Alex Essoe gives a hell of a performance, the gore is insane, and it's a wholly original take on timeless legends on acquiring both fame and talent. I don't want to spoil anything! But it's highly recommended. SHOCKtober can only be downhill from here!

And just to prove that's true: tomorrow's film is ATM. I sure hope it brings me some donuts!


Jennifer M. said...

I'll be watching right along with ya this month! And you said we could pimp our own reviews in your comments, so here's mine:
Happy Shocktober!

Unknown said...

Good pick, I'm glad I watched it!

Maybe you already did this, and I'm just blind, but could you post the full SHOCKtober list for the month? That way we can try to find the movies ahead of time.

Stacie Ponder said...

Thank ye! And sorry, I don't have the whole month mapped out yet; I'm only posting the next movie the day before I post about it. It's life on the edge!

Unknown said...

Alright, flying by the seat of our pants it is!

CashBailey said...

If horror got any respect both Alex Essoe and Essie Davis from THE BABADOOK would have gotten Oscar nominations.

Stacie Ponder said...

@Trevor - that's the spirit! Life is lived very dangerously around these parts, as you can see.

@Cash - I totally 100% agree. It's such a shame that some truly astounding performances (and writing, and...) are just completely overlooked because of the genre. Both of those women crushed it.

Anonymous said...

So glad you enjoyed it. It is definitely a gem!

I wrote a review for it for my blog. Long time lurker on Final Girl and always loved Shocktober.

Stacie Ponder said...

Awesome, thank you! I love your header image. And I'm with you–I could watch Satanists do their thing all day!

AE said...

It's terrible (and it's not donuts) but I was watching this Mr. Show episode tonight and it reminded me "Oh! Final Girl is reviewing Starry Eyes today."

It's a terrible, terrible world but I'm so glad you liked the movie. "Starry Eyes" is charming and agonizing and fascinating and greatly reassuring to people who've moved away from L.A. Happy SHOCKtober!

Stacie Ponder said...

Oh my goodness, they were all such little babies! PFT looked like he was about 12!

The Messenger Is Not Important said...

i liked this film but RITA HAYWORTH DID NOT WORSHIP THE DEVIL! disgracia!

Rob K. said...

I'm so glad you liked this. I don't hardly like newer horror movies much but this one packs a punch. I think it's great! And if you haven't seen CREEP ('15), do so soon, it's aptly titled!