Monday, March 13, 2006

The Hunger – review


Release Date: 1983

Director: Tony Scott

contains spoilers

One of the great things about deciding to write reviews for the blog is that it’s an excuse to dig out loads of old vampire movies and re-watch them (like I need an excuse!)

The hunger is a visually stunning movie. The opening scenes are in a night club where, in a cage, Goth godfathers Bauhaus play “Bela Lugosi Is Dead”. In the club, words lost in the music, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John (David Bowie) pick up another couple and drive back to a house, as the music fades from Bauhaus to a harshly synthesised ambience. As the two couples pair off we flick to images of the band in their cage and then to a monkey which, in his laboratory cage, has started to go mad. Then, in a scene that should serve as a warning to anyone considering partner swapping as a lifestyle, the couple murder their new friends, slitting their throats with blades secreted in their ankh necklaces – for “The Hunger” is a vampire film without fangs. As this occurs we see the monkey ripping another apart. The scene is arguably one of the most powerful opening shots of a vampire movie.

We see Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) for the first time, looking at the remains of the eviscerated lab monkey as Miriam and John drive to their home, depositing their victims into an incinerator. There follows a scene, touching and beautiful, of Miriam and John in the shower, the love the predators share for each other obvious. Yet, later, as Miriam sleeps, John is restless his thoughts wandering to his past. Meanwhile Sarah studies the monkey, like John it is unable to sleep and is becoming more aggressive. When playing a musical composition with Alice (Beth Elhers), a young girl, John loses concentration.

Sarah is promoting a book, Sleep and Longevity, and is involved in a research project to try and slow down humanities internal aging clock. Both Miriam and John make contact with her in their own way, both knowing that John has started to age. John’s attempt fails, Sarah thinks him a crank until, having left him for a couple of hours, she finds he has aged massively. Fleeing from the clinic John tries to feed but fails and then turns on Alice – who is to be his replacement – and kills the girl, but the aging does not stop.

It is now we discover the horror of what Miriam has done. Her lovers age, after a time, but do not die. They are all with her still, trapped in decrepit husks of bodies, confined to coffins – the truly undead.

Sarah visits Miriam, trying to track down John, and Miriam begins Sarah's seduction as the next companion. Miriam’s presence seems to be all around Sarah and then, in an erotically charged scene tinged with pure horror, the seduction is completed. Miriam plays the piano for them, and I can no longer hear the “Flower Duet” by Delibes without thinking of the scene. They retire to bed and, whilst they love, the screen is imposed with images of blood cells and them feeding on each other, Miriam is creating a new companion.

Sarah’s new nature is taking over, making her lover Tom Haver (Cliff DeYoung) suspicious. Testing her blood, they discover that a new blood type is destroying her original human blood.

Sarah becomes more and more ill as the hunger consumes her. Miriam brings her a victim but it is apparent that she refuses him - though perhaps Miriam only intended to show Sarah how to feed. Eventually Tom comes looking for Sarah and Miriam arranges for Sarah to feed on him. Sarah feeds on Tom but then stabs herself in the neck with Miriam’s ankh blade. Miriam takes Sarah to lay her to rest with the other companions but they rise, desiccated husks, and approach the vampire. She backs away panicking, and falls down the stairwell and, on landing, starts to age rapidly - at the same time her companions begin to crumble to dust.

The film is a well acted and fantastically shot piece, with moments of horror laced through it. It can, however, be languid in places. Even so, I give it 8.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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