Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer both write and direct Starry Eyes, an indie slice of horror that takes a brutal, unnerving look at the power of temptation in Hollywood. The message in their film is loud and clear, never shying away from asking the question of—What would you do for fame? Preying on the weak-minding, Starry Eyes takes a slow-burn approach to the evil that slithers in Hollywood hell. It follows a hopeful young starlet who uncovers the ominous origins of the Hollywood elite and enters into a deadly agreement in exchange for fame and fortune.
The mostly unknown Alex Essoe—playing Sarah—leaves a stunning mark on the film, continuing the upward trend of women in horror films having a whole hell of a lot more to do in the genre than just scream and look pretty. Starry Eyes rests comfortably on her shoulders as it rarely, if at all, leaves her point of view as a struggling actress looking for her big break. Essoe nails the role, so much so that her character grabs your attention with a subtle pain in her eyes as her dreams of making it in Hollywood are slowly slipping away.
Nearing the end of her rope, Sarah tries out for one more audition in hopes to land the role of a lifetime in The Silver Scream. Showing up to a dimly lit room with two slithery casting directors—a man and a woman—sitting behind a desk, Sarah gives it her all. Her all, however, just wasn’t enough as she quickly finds herself in a bathroom buckling under the pressure of Hollywood. Seeing Sarah in a hair-pulling fit of self destruction, the woman offers her one last chance to impress them, and impress them she does. It turns out, Sarah might just be perfect for the role after all.
This is where Starry Eyes really starts to take shape as it begins to peel back the layers of its narrative and show its true, evil colors. There’s something slithering in the underbelly of Hollywood and Sarah is about to come face to face with it. The film never once tries to burry the lead as to what’s going on, either. With only 90 minutes to spare, Starry Eyes hits you rather quickly, building a special kind of skin-crawling tension that leads you straight into the mouth of madness.
Kolsch and Widmyer have pieced this one together in such a way that it sneaks up on you, unleashing a final, shocking act that goes straight for the jugular. And while the message in Starry Eyes can certainly come off a little heavy-handed, what it does so well is that it takes that message and delivers it in the form of pure brutality of the highest caliber. Even if you take the film’s underlying metaphors and ignore them completely, what you’re left with is an outstanding horror film that starts with a creepy-crawly atmosphere and gores its way to the finish line, leaving nothing behind but bloody remains under the bright lights of Hollywood.