Friday, February 12, 2010

The Girl with the Hungry eyes – review


Director: Jon Jacobs

Release date: 1995

Contains spoilers

This is an odd one, part based on a Fritz Leiber Jr story that I will explore below, the film does much wrong and yet there is something about it that I thoroughly enjoyed – I guess you might call it the guilty pleasure principle. It also has some strange and yet originally thrilling ideas that could have been executed with more skill.

But let us begin at the beginning; there is a voiceover by Louise (Christina Fulton, who was an uncredited vampire girl in the 1992 Dracula). She can’t think anymore and it takes her up to three hours to dress. We are in the Tides hotel, Miami in 1937. The hotel is beloved to her but there have been strange murders and she feels that evil pervades the walls.

hanging aroundIs it all in her head? After all, the reason she feels so bad is because the man she loved has betrayed her. He has been sleeping around, getting drunk and has gambled himself into debt. Now he wants the hotel to pay those debts. Louise has put the deeds in a safety deposit box and purposefully lost the keys. She goes to her room and hangs herself.

Louise rebornIn the present day the hotel is a stripped out shell. An old bum is leaving, he tells the hotel that *they* are going to pull it down. The hotel (Jed Curtis) is breathing, it is alive – the evil that Louise felt is real – this was a great idea but the voice of the hotel was handled badly and became hokey rather than scary. It summons her back and it is a great scene. Furniture reappears in the room finally the overturned chair of her suicide appears and rights itself, her feet appear in shot sporadically twitching and then she lowers and sits on the chair with an air that any Japanese ghost story film would be proud of.

She hides behind her hairSo let us talk Louise. Christina Fulton plays her very strangely indeed. At times her fangs are gone and at other times they seem permanent. She acts weirdly creepy and crazy, walking hunched, her limbs moving in an unnatural way. She hides behind her hair and then her face creeps forward and radiates confidence. She is one of the strangest vampires you will ever see, her makeup is pale, her eyes shine from cadaverous caves and yet all seem to accept her as normal. I get ahead of myself, however. The hotel has brought her back to find the key, get the deeds, prevent the demolition and restore it.

We meet Carlos (Isaac Turner). He is a photographer and we first see him taking some shots of the hotel. Later we see him photographing a model, Mandy (Susan Rhodes), but he is getting drunk also; his pictures just aren’t selling. He and Mandy have sex in the shower and then he is found by Johnny (Leon Herbert) – Carlos owes Johnny money and he gets 1 week to pay.

modeling for CarlosThat night Louise goes to a restaurant and orders a rare steak. She hears the hotel tell her that the undead need fresh blood and it suggests that she should try the waiter. He comes over and she scurries out. He looks at the steak and worms crawl over it, indicating that her presence has corrupted it. She goes to Carlos’ studio – he thinks she is a model walked in from the street. Actually the key is part of a key sculpture he made (she steals it). They do some photos with his last roll of film, including some topless, her awkward movements seem not to bother him. She leaves but has left the key in his studio area.

feedingThe bum is going through Carlos' trash the next day and finds the key as it has been thrown out, he puts it in his mouth. When night falls Louise goes, out looking for food, and finds a punk who picks her up. Through his thoughts we discover that he is a psychopath, a sexual sadist. His rough antics only make Louise laugh and she seems to know his dark secrets. When she feeds on him, a feeding that involves her snapping his neck and him twitching spasmodically, the feeding seems to vicariously give strength to the hotel, causing long dead lights to flicker within.

Carlos, meanwhile, has sold her pictures but then cannot find her to take more as she never left her address with him. He searches for her and eventually they meet again. She has stipulations, conditions he must obey if he wants to work with her. She only works at night (sunlight, we later find, burns her), she will only work in his studio, he must never follow her or see her outside of the studio and she will not meet the clients. She cannot find the key she left and one wonders how she didn’t hone in on it, with the bum, as she had done earlier when Carlos had it.

blooded handsThe vampirism in this is interesting as she has been drawn back from Hell, as a suicide, in order to act as agent for the hotel and to feed its evil vicariously. She is scared of love, it appears, because of her past experience but not of the cross – she is reborn wearing a crucifix. Clearly she can be photographed. I mentioned that she burns in the sun and her touch is corrupting (the steak). At one point she has blooded hands and sucks the blood away, leaving them perfectly clean.

threatening JohnnyThe performances are not brilliant but never too offensive, Fulton hams it completely and the character calls for that. The fact that she seems accepted everywhere despite the odd behaviour is a surreal aspect that as an audience you quickly accept – suspending belief. Unfortunately the film doesn’t really hang very well and both the disembodied voice of the hotel and people’s thoughts were handled poorly.

It isn’t great, but I enjoyed it – especially Fulton’s manic portrayal of a vampire. Something a little unusual and, as I mentioned, a guilty pleasure. 4 out of 10 seems fair balancing the poor aspects with the fact that it was so strangely entrancing.

The imdb page is here.


Interesting Shorts: The Girl with Hungry Eyes

vampires - encounters with the undeadThe story by Fitz Leiber Jr, published 1949, only covers certain aspects that the film of the same name did. Indeed the vampirism is utterly different – as Leiber wrote, “There are vampires and vampires, and not all of them suck blood.”

The girl (never named) is a psychic vampire, there is no blood drinking and none of the normal affectations of vampirism. The whole hotel back story, constructed in the film, was never in the story and the hint was that the girl was created almost out of the collective subconscious of a world hooked on advertising.

The girl is a top model but doesn’t do the normal top model things, no expose in the press, no going into the movies etc. There are also no actual paintings or drawings of her because only 1 photographer ever sees her – and he is rich but miserable. The person telling us the story knows because he was her photographer before. As happens in the film, she comes to him models, he sells the photos and when she finds him again she stipulates rules. He must stick to photography in the studio and never follow her afterwards, she will not, under any circumstance, meet the clients.

There are strange deaths occurring – 6 are noted – of men who appear to have had heart attacks but had no known pre-existing heart condition. As for her eyes, given the title, he says that it was “Nothing vulgar, but just the same they’re looking at you with a hunger that’s all sex and something more than sex.” It is the eyes in the photos that transfix men.

When he does eventually follow her, he sees that she lurks around her own pictures, out on the streets, and then approaches men who look at them, going off with them. He eventually breaks the rules fully and steps out with her but then runs for his life, realising that she is a psychic vampire, eating the powerful experiences of life for her sustenance. He survives but never meets her again.

Thus the girl represents consumerism, eating the richness of life and destroying us, body and soul, for a disposable lifestyle sold by advertising agencies. An interesting take on the vampire.

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