Quick Take: #SXSW 2014 saw the premiere of Starry Eyes and Matt was on hand to soak it in.
Going into Starry Eyes at South by Southwest 2014, the latest from directors/writers Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kolsch, I was eager despite knowing very little about the film. I had the synopsis, which reads as a typical cautionary tale of an actress willing to do whatever it takes to succeed in the business, and I knew it had some incredible artwork associated with it from my personal favorite screenprint artist, Jay Shaw. More than anything, I just had a good feeling about it. Good enough of a feeling to endure cold wind and rain at the end of a long day just for a chance to see it.
As the film began and quickly cut to an excellent throwback title screen, my anticipation felt rewarded. The score, crafted exquisitely by Jonathan Snipes, was instantly entrancing and never let go. As the film’s tale begins to unravel I was mesmerized. As the film felt to be building towards a logical conclusion, it switched gears and somehow got even darker. I was floored. As soon as it was over, I wanted to watch it again immediately. If you’ve been paying attention to Twitter, you already know that I’m not alone in this.
After failing that last audition, Sarah storms into the nearest bathroom and unleashes an inner anger on the stall and herself. She’s startled to see one of the auditioners eagerly awaiting her just outside the stall door, creepy smile and foreboding atmosphere in tow . This raw emotion and honesty is what they were looking for. They want to see more. Thus begins Sarah’s downward spiral of self-degradation in pursuit of her ultimate goals.
What I loved most about Starry Eyes’ tonal shift is that what feels like a cautionary tale to that point ends up as the complete opposite. The film ponders “Are you willing to become something more to reach your goals?”, but what if that something else is already lurking under the surface, just waiting to find it’s way out? What if being something built out of pure evil what was you were intended for all along. Just the fact that the film asks these questions and delivers upon them is profoundly satisfying.
Cementing Essoe’s performance is the masterful direction and writing of Wdmyer and Kolsch. There’s a subtleness to the film, even when it dips into full on gore late in the third act, that just puts it a cut above it’s modern horror contemporaries. The pair crafted a well thought out tale and were able to present it in a completely organic and masterful way. A great sense of pace and design are also present from the get go. These guys are at the height of their game and will assuredly be names to look out for from here on out.