Connect with us


Best of Frightfest: ‘Starry Eyes’ Dirs. Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kölsch

Best of Frightfest: As the twentieth anniversary of Arrow Video Frightfest approaches, we at team THN take a look back at some of the best and brightest films that have screened over the last two decades. Today we look at Starry Eyes.

This year, directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch released their updated version of Pet Sematary. The film was a pitch-perfect adaptation of Stephen King’s darkest novel, but before all that, they created one of Frightfest’s more recent instant classics, the wonderful Starry Eyes.

Just how far would you go to achieve your dreams? This is a question that has been asked countless times across the centuries with one of the earliest tales being that of Faust.  Starry Eyes tackles the age-old fable but adds a very modern twist. Sarah (a magnificent Alex Essoe) is a fast-food waitress with big dreams. Living within an apartment building full of other actors, Sarah feels like her peers pity her. She is riddled with an unhealthy mix of both incredible self-belief and crippling self-doubt. The conflicting sides of her psyche have several wince-inducing bouts as her frustrations lead her to literally pull her hair out.

Having yet to get a role, and wanting to prove that she is better than those around her, she dives headfirst into an audition with the enigmatic Astraeus Pictures for the horror movie The Silver Scream. Hounded by her determination to succeed, Sarah overlooks the rather odd set-ups of the job; she finds herself faced with the ultimate casting couch. Anyone with a dream will relate to Sarah’s desperate determination. The film deals with desperation, paranoia, and the most deadly of desires – ambition, and showcases the extreme lengths that the soul will go to to reach that ultimate goal of perfection.

Los Angeles has long been seen as the land where dreams come true – how many films and television shows have you watched wherein the protagonist has arrived and had fame and fortune thrust upon them? The reality of the city is that it is riddled with victims that believe the Hollywood hype. Directors Kolsch and Widmyer aren’t afraid to show the un-sugarcoated version of the Hollywood lifestyle. Gone are the expected glorifying shots of sunshine and Hollywood signs, replaced with a murky and misty visual populated with dilapidated housing and seedy side streets.

Starry Eyes was heavily influenced by films like Rosemary’s BabyPossession, and Repulsion, films from the golden age of horror. The influences shine through, the film perfectly encapsulating the tone and style of the vintage silver screen. The film’s first portion is very much a psychological drama without a drop of corn syrup in sight. The slow pace though is actually building-up to a glorious tumble down the gore-filled rabbit-hole. The spiral starts with a very bad bathroom and is followed with an even worse bad bathroom. As Sarah finds herself dying to ascend, the story takes a rather graphic body-horror turn

All of these events could get a little silly were it not for the tremendous turn of Alex Essoe. In a strange parallel, Essoe found her very own gateway part with the role. Since Starry Eyes she has worked consistently and even makes a return to Frightfest screens this year with The Drone. Her next big project though is The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep. It’s easy to see why the work has been free-flowing, her performance in Starry Eyes is the perfect showreel, showcasing an incredible range missing from most current scream queens. Effortlessly able to switch from angry and angst ridden to pageant queen polite, you completely empathise with Sarah’s ordeal. Essoe makes you feel Sarah’s plight every step of the way. Even when her choices take her down a bleak pathway, the audience can’t help but root for her. This is a must-watch for fans of modern horror.

Arrow Video Frightfest returns for its twentieth year on 22nd August 2019. Full details about the event can be found on the Frightfest website

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


Latest Posts


More in Features