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  Starry Eyes Getting On Famously
Year: 2014
Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmeyer
Stars: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabienne Therese, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, Pat Healey, Nick Simmons, Maria Olsen, Marc Senter, Louis Dezseran, Danny Minnick, Denis Bolotski, Burt Culver, Elissa Dowling, Trent Haaga
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sarah (Alex Essoe) is an aspiring actress in Los Angeles, one of many who is holding down a job at a restaurant to pay the bills as she continues to attend auditions without much success. This leads her to express her frustration in rages which often lead to her tearing some of her hair out, but she manages to keep this in check when she is around others, that is until she receives a call from a production making a horror movie called The Silver Scream. She is excited about what may be a big break, so goes along filled with anticipation and reads for two rather arrogant-seeming casting directors, and on feeling as if she messed up yet again, she goes to the ladies' restroom and lets it all out...

Supposedly based on a story the directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer heard about an audition with David Lynch, there were certainly some narrative parallels with his Mulholland Drive what with its weird exploration of the underside of the entertainment business, but this had more influence from the likes of European filmmakers like Roman Polanski and Dario Argento with its sinister, arcane cult and the middle section delineating the emotional and physical breakdown of the heroine very similar to the former's Repulsion, complete with eventual bloody violence as a result. Before we reached that point, there was a long, slow build-up to what seemed inevitable in hindsight.

Therefore predictability was an issue, especially if you suspected the cult were too powerful to resist, but what held it together was the remarkably committed performance from Alex Essoe, proving herself unafraid to look absolutely terrible if it meant selling the role convincingly. The tearing out of hair was just the start, as once she gets a callback for a second audition after demonstrating one of her fits to the casting directors (they overheard her freak-out in the toilet cubicle) events take an even more menacing turn. She is requested to strip all her clothes off in a room only lit by a single spotlight, and is understandably reluctant (are there no laws to protect auditioning actors?), but the experience has an odd effect.

Sarah goes into a sort of trance, and when she gets a third callback, she is so confident that she packs in her rotten job, the theme of exploitation of young women, be that in the entertainment industry or the service industry, one of the informing textures to the piece. We find out just how far Sarah is willing to debase herself when the producer (Louis Dezseran) coaxes her to deliver him a sexual favour, and we are asked to ponder whether oral sex is the same price to pay for female employees as dressing up in skintight outfits at the restaurant so they will attract customers that way rather than on the quality of their food. Sarah initially regards this as a step too far, but then has second thoughts when desperation once again takes hold.

In spite of the concerns of her friends, especially flatmate Tracy (Amanda Fuller) who feels she is alienating herself from them, Sarah plunges herself into what it is now clear was no movie audition, it was the chance to join up as a sacrifice for the cult, but what we don't know is what that entails: will she die in the process of being served up to some ancient god, or will she be transformed? This leads to the Repulsion part as she is confined to her apartment as her body and mind disintegrate – you want fingernail pulling? You got it! – and we can see some form of initiation is underway, not just for her physical trials but also for the manner in which she treats her friends as stepping stones on the way to her ritual purification in blood. The directors worked up quite the creepy atmosphere for what was a rather too basic story, though you could appreciate that as a certain single-mindedness of purpose, and by the time it has reached its conclusion you may well have been impressed that indie horror could win out over the big budget efforts. Electro-music by Jonathan Snipes.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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