Horror film review: ‘Starry Eyes’ – 4.5 out of 5

Starry Eyes Poster

‘Starry Eyes’ – The Poster

I had heard a lot of buzz about “Starry Eyes” and when I saw it was available on Amazon I jumped at the chance to add this to my video library. I only knew that the film was about a young lady trying to make it as an actress in L.A. and the trailer had a creepy vibe that called to mind “Eyes Wide Shut” and potentially “Rosemary’s Baby.”

I was absolutely intrigued and given it was another film linked to Dark Sky Films I had faith it was going to be something fresh, different, low key (in a good way), non-CG and good.

I was not disappointed. The more I seek out horror films and find ones I love, the more Dark Sky Films is involved. These films are old school, classic style films that I’m going to be re-watching for years to come. These are the antidote to the overwrought, mass produced remakes/reboots coming off the Hollywood mainstream conveyor belt.

These are films with great acting, writing, directing, mood, music and feel like time capsules from the 70s and 80s when many of the great horror films arose.

Sarah

Sarah at her day job

“Starry Eyes” stars Alex Essoe as the lead character Sarah, at first glance the stereotypical struggling actress looking for her big break while holding down a crappy waitress job. Her circle of friends are mostly supportive, but one gal, Erin (Fabianne Therese) is clearly not in her corner. Her disingenuous support and congratulations are delivered with a consistently sugary sweet coating.

Sarah is dejected, losing faith and we watch her have weird episodes when faced with stress and disappointment. Then there’s the audition that changes everything.

Sarah has a fit

Sarah’s Fit

In a scene having a very David Lynch vibe, two unusual characters The Casting Director (the always amazing Maria Olsen) and The Assistant (Marc Senter) give her odd directions and she clearly doesn’t give them what they want. Finding herself in the women’s washroom in tears she snaps. A sudden explosion of rage and temporary insanity which is witnessed by Olsen who brings her back to the audition.

The Producer

The Producer

In the new audition, they push her to unleash her inner “monster” and after some delay she does. In a scene that has to be seen to be understood, lead actress unleashes a fit that’s unnerving and raw. She gets past the audition to a private meeting The Producer (Louis Dezseran).

At his creepy mansion, The Producer blatantly implies that in exchange for sexual favors he’ll make her a star. Running in disgust she confides in friends and they all agree she’s done the right thing, and Sarah returns to her routine life of waitress drudgery. Soon the desire to achieve stardom overwhelms her and she returns to the mansion to surrender to The Producer.

Sarah Transforms

Sarah’s Transformation

What follows I won’t spoil, but the slow burn build up to her surrender and the transformation of her character is stunning. This is one of those roles you can’t see many actresses having been able to handle/cope with (such as Laura Dern in David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” or Jenny Spain in “Deadgirl”).

The final act is bloody, disturbing, twisted and calls to mind a lot of great horror film moments. At the same time, “Starry Eyes” remains true to its own unique vision. Even a few weeks later, the ending continues to reverberate in my mind like the blinding reflection of sunlight on another car’s windshield. You blink but that “after image” haunts you.

Conclusion:

If you love horror, strong female roles/leads and exploring unsettling themes on a dark journey you MUST see “Starry Eyes” and soon. It’s an instant classic I’m proud to have in my collection. As a horror author, this is exactly the kind of film that resonates with me on every level.

Watch the trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JbO0eIc3jM

Watch now:
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PLGDZKA

iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/starry-eyes/id936588095

Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/movies/details/Starry_Eyes?id=CfpBdCDykVQ&hl=en

Vudu:
http://www.vudu.com/movies/#!overview/604512/Starry-Eyes

Learn more about Dark Sky Films:
https://www.darkskyfilms.com/

Check out my interview with Horror’s new queen Jessica Cameron for KEM!

Jessica Cameron headshot 2 by K.S.GillRobert Ropars plays Horror Truth or Dare with Scream Queen Jessica Cameron

by Robert Ropars – horror author, photographer, for Kink-E Magazine

Jessica Cameron: Scream Queen, Actress, Writer, Director, Producer and more

RR: I know how busy you are so I appreciate you doing this. For this interview I looked for interesting/different questions hoping they are ones you’re not normally asked. Are you ready?

JC: GO FOR IT! :)

RR: Ok the first question is: What is your earliest memory?

JC: I remember attending hearing tests in the doctor’s office, I remember the toys and thinking that they were boring and what child would ever want to play with them. It was one of the toys with the wooden loops on the metal wires that twisted which are intended for young children to learn problem solving and hand/eye coordination. I was 3.

I was born prematurely with very little hearing in one ear and virtually none in the other. It took them a few years before then felt I was safe to operate on; I had to have the tubes in my ears corrected. I hated the tests; I had taught myself how to read people’s lips and was able to mimic words around 4. This would cause me to mispronounce certain words and as a result make my spelling skills very poor, something I am still not very good at today.

Keep reading (warning NSFW site!)

Jenny Got Sick – pandemic flash horror fiction in 100 words or less

JENNY GOT SICK

It was a hot, humid August day in Texas. Jenny’s mom was busy escorting her brother through the Reptile House off I-35 and Jenny had to pee. The washroom was occupied so she went out back to the vast field behind the building. She found a secluded spot and squatted.

Suddenly there was a rustling sound and a growling armadillo foaming at the mouth emerged from the grass. It rushed at her, but she managed to grab it. The creature’s belly was covered with pulsating black sores. One of them burst, sending hot black pus into her mouth.

Falling back, Jenny swallowed.

================================

Originally published March 11, 2012 as part of 100 Horrors: Tales of Horror in the Blink of an Eye

Pre-order my 1st full-length horror book now! Ghosts in the Graveyard

I’m pleased to announce the impending release of my first full-length horror book: Ghosts in the Graveyard

It’s been a work-in-progress for a year and excited to release it on the world 10/1. You can pre-order it on Amazon today (see below) and here’s a synopsis:

Ten years ago, three girlfriends set out to play an innocent child’s game: Ghosts in the Graveyard. They knew they shouldn’t sneak into a cemetery on that Halloween night, but the twins, Lisa & Louise Grady, and Ari West are always up for some mischief. When one of the twins disappears without a trace that night, her sister and best friend never recover from that loss.

Now Ari must race against time to find out what really happened to her lost friend. In this spellbinding Gothic horror story, Ari and her family become convinced something is trying to possess her. As they experience increasingly violent psychic phenomena, will she learn what really happened ten years ago before history repeats itself and her soul is lost forever?

Ari’s about to learn that some games only children should play.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MT6OWZM

Looking for supporters to help with book launch:
https://fundanything.com/en/campaigns/help-me-publish-my-first-horror-novel-make-a-trailer-promote-it

My favorite films/shows to honor Memorial Day & horror of war

Associate Press - Arlington Cemetery bugler

Associate Press – Arlington Cemetery bugler

All Quite on the Western Front (1930)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The Great Escape (1963)
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
M*A*S*H (1972)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Das Boot (1981)
Rambo: First Blood (1982)
Platoon (1986)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Blackadder Goes Forth (1989 – TV – in particular the last episode of the series)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Glory (1989)
Casualties of War (1989)
Henry V (1989)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
JFK (1991)
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Braveheart (1995)
Hiroshima (TV movie – 1995)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Band of Brothers (2001 – TV)
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Red Cliff (2008)
The Pianist (2002)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Atonement (2007)
The Warlords (2007)
Inglourioius Basterds (2009)

‘What They Say’ and Heather Dorff – a cut above the rest

‘What They Say’ is a short horror film (2011) directed by Justine Romine, based on a story by, and starring Chicago’s own, the incomparably talented actress Heather Dorff. It’s a trippy film that warps time and perception as we follow the lead character/narrator who is unnamed (Dorff) through a downward spiral into madness and bloodshed.

Heather Dorff

Heather Dorff

It’s clear from the beginning that the main character is isolated and at odds with herself and everyone around her (family and friends alike). The opening credits features disturbing imagery implying she’s surrounded by monsters disguised as people. As she finishes a cigarette break under a tree, we follow “unnamed” as she walks across the campus of her school and encounters her classmates.

Their reactions range from mockery to outright disdain and it’s clear she spends most of her time alone, bitter, angry and suffering as she deals with her classmates. At one point she makes eye contact with one young man and it’s immediately clear he’s got some amount of regret or guilt in his expression (we’ll soon learn why). As they make eye contact, it’s clear pain (in all its forms) is a constant in “unnamed’s” life.

We then see pieces of her home life and it’s just like her school world: a mess. In between, we see flashbacks to her youth, in particular things she saw her father doing while she was a little girl. History repeats itself as the father’s pain and self-destructive nature have clearly imprinted on “unnamed” and we watch as her mental fabric slowly, painfully and bloodily unravels thread-by-thread. Before I delve deeper into this film and any spoilers I’ll stop you here to say you should definitely see this film!

Unnamed prepares

‘Unnamed’ prepares herself

Buy this film NOW via digital download:

http://whattheysayfilm.com/

Follow Heather Dorff online:

Her website

Her Twitter profile

Midwest Indie film

Her Facebook profile

‘What They Say’ Facebook page

Full length horror film ‘Truth or Dare’ Twitter profile

Her new short film ‘The Tour’ Twitter profile

******Spoiler warning******

Throughout the film we witness the self-destructive therapy “unnamed” is engaged in: cutting. We see several instances of the main character cutting herself, remembering seeing her father cut himself when she was a child, and as her encounters with family and former friends continue to be hurtful and damaging, we follow the lead as she retreats repeatedly to her bathroom and attempts to relieve her pain with a razor.

What They Say poster

‘What They Say’ poster

Overall the writing, acting, music and f/x are top notch. The warped faces seen during the opening credits and makeup f/x on Heather during the final scenes are creepy as hell (especially the latter sequence). The camera is essentially always following Heather and she has an intense energy and stare that reminded me of some of the better enraged/possessed characters in horror films. She owns every scene she’s in, but when she’s looking into the camera full of possessed rage…shivers will run down your spine. You would NOT want to be on the receiving end of that stare!

About the only quibble, and it’s a common quibble among indie films regardless of genre, was the ambient sound in a few scenes. In particular a scene where her mom and a friend’s mom join “nameless” and her sisters for tea. As the camera moves from character to character, and angle to angle, there is no ambient sound effect(s) or music for parts of the scene. It’s probably my surround sound set up, but the ambient background sound varied significantly as the camera shifted and it was a little distracting. Again this is a minor issue which probably could have been covered by some creepy background sound(s) or music.

Heather Dorff

‘Unnamed’ about to unleash

However, I should point out that the end of the scene erases any memory of this. As the inane conversation escalates amongst those around her, Heather erupts in rage and the sounds and music replace the empty background noise. In other words, unlike many indie films where sound can be inconsistent and an ongoing issue, this was really the only real instance of this problem in the movie. In brutal detail, we see her lashing out at those present who’ve been talking incessantly about her as if she wasn’t there. One by one she attacks in her mind before coming back to reality or at least that semblance of it that each of us does our best to cope with each day. In the end, the bathtub cutting rituals get more elaborate as “unnamed” fully embraces the one thing that relieves her pain and empowers her.

Heather Dorff

‘Unnamed” unbound

The ending leaves things open to interpretation which is just fine with me. Too much of art is spoon-fed to the viewer. Leave some ambiguity. Is “unnamed” crazy? Are we seeing what’s really happening, are things in her head, or some combination of the two? What I know is that Heather Dorff is a great writer, an amazing actress and the horror genre is all the better for having her.

I highly recommend you find and see this short film and check out Heather’s other works such as the upcoming full-length film “Truth or Dare” the first film directed by fellow horror actress, the equally amazing Jessica Cameron. Horror is a very exciting genre at the moment. And a large part of that is the new generation of artists like Heather and Jessica taking the reins.