Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.
2014. Rated R, 98 minutes.
Sarah (Essoe) is a young, aspiring actress living in Los Angeles and working at a Hooters-type establishment called Big Taters to pay the bills. Nice. She is trying to juggle her job with as many auditions as she can get. The latest audition is for a horror flick called "The Silver Scream." It turns out, it is an excruciating affair, but she's given a call-back. Actually getting the role requires some serious commitment and sacrifice on her part. We watch her spiral downward in an effort to become a star.
Before seeing this movie, I'd never heard of Alex Essoe. In the lead, she gives a wonderful performance. From the very beginning, when we see her violently pulling her own hair, it's clear she's prone to inflict physical punishment upon herself. At first, the lengths she goes to are certainly ill-advised, but not necessarily far fetched. In light of some of the things she says and does, we know there's nothing important to her than seeing her name in lights. When cautioned by her roommate about the dangerous path she's on, Sarah only says "I feel like I'm already selling my soul," in reference to her waitressing job. Essoe makes us believe the statement. It comes off as a throwaway line, but is a perfect setup for the insanity that follows. More than looking the part, or sounding it, she really emanates defeatism and desperation. We come to understand that NOT being a star is wearing this girl down.
Where Starry Eyes falters most is in depicting Sarah's role within her circle of friends. We're shown her hanging out with them and they seem to care for her a great deal. However, she doesn't really seem to have ever been one of them. There's that group of friends and then there's her kinda off to the side. She seems more like a newcomer to the crew than a long time bosom buddy. The lack of a connection between Sarah and the rest of the gang is most felt when things turn nasty during the last twenty minutes or so. It's a nasty stretch of film that still could have been more brutal, more gut-wrenching had it occurred between people who really were close to one another.
The disconnect between characters is really a small blip on the screen. The real entertainment comes from watching Sarah unravel. Tagging along for her descent is a fun, twisty ride. Simply put, it's the quest for fame taken to its most absurd extremes. The vehicle it uses to get there is body horror that grows in severity as the film progresses. It follows that by taking on the guise of a slasher flick for its finale. When it ends, Starry Eyes has said some interesting and cynical things to say about the climb to stardom. The fact that all of Sarah's friends are young, aspiring film-makers makes things especially poignant.