Saturday 29 June 2019

Movie Review: The Hunger (1983)

A vampire erotic horror thriller, The Hunger invests all its effort in an overabundance of style at the expense of narrative and character depth.

In New York City, vampire Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) is living with her latest long-term lover John (David Bowie). They feed by luring unsuspecting victims to Miriam's lavish house then violently killing them and drinking their blood.

John is shocked to discover that although Miriam had promised him eternal life, he will eventually age rapidly and expire. He progresses from young and handsome to old and derelict in a matter of hours, but not before making contact with Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), an expert on aging. Miriam sets her eyes on Sarah to be her next long-term partner and proceeds to orchestrate an emotional and physical seduction.

An adaptation of the book by Whitley Strieber, The Hunger's plot points would fit neatly on a small napkin, and the story could be easily told in about 20 minutes of screen time. The serious themes of longevity and the human desire to extend life are used as a juvenile springboard for an inconsequential froth of blood, gore and titillation.

But Tony Scott, making his directorial debut, uses the thin material as a basis for an exercise in stylistic muscle flexing to dazzle the eyes and distract the mind. And so every single frame is drenched in blue light, flowing curtains make a guest appearance at 10 minute intervals, and stroboscopic lights, silhouettes, odd camera angles, manic editing, thumping music, screeching caged monkeys and fluttering white pigeons are deployed to create sensory overload.

While the visual buffet is entertaining and the premise of Catherine Deneuve seducing Susan Sarandon is rich with undeniable eroticism, eventually all logic is jettisoned in favour of a climax full of attempted gothic horror (from the skeletons on the loose variety) but completely devoid of contextual coherence.

The special effects focus on aging, David Bowie the primary victim as he endures decades of physical decline in a matter of minutes, appropriately while he sits in a hospital waiting lounge. Deneuve exudes the icy patience of a person who will live forever, while Sarandon is adequate, despite the script never quite getting a handle on her Dr. Roberts.

The Hunger revels in artistic excess, sucking in blood while avoiding all substance.

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