“A hopeful young starlet uncovers the ominous origins of the Hollywood elite and enters into a deadly agreement in exchange for fame and fortune.” — IMDb
This movie was very much hit or miss for me, but I enjoyed it overall. The plot is fairly classic and a little bit stereotypical — pretty girl working at a Hooters-esque restaurant in LA ultimately struggling to make it on the big screen. But I think it is a storyline that is used often since the possibility for desperate measures to be taken is so likely, as is the case here.
There’s some awkward, forced scenes — the first party scene comes to mind — and honestly I could take or leave about 90% of the supporting cast (all of her “friends”, really), especially her “jealous” friend Erin (played by Fabianne Therese), but Sarah (played by Alex Essoe) was so well done I didn’t mind.
They pretty quickly set up Sarah to be very much a loner — surrounded by people but ultimately lost in her own mind and desires. Her job is degrading and unsatisfying, her friends are more concerned with their own lives for the most part, and she never seems too eager to be included, as if she knows she will be rocketing off to stardom any day now and doesn’t want anything holding her back. She gets her audition for The Silver Scream and then things start to get weird, made obvious as soon as the female casting director calls her in for another look after she has an “episode” in the bathroom (she’s frustrated that her casting call went so badly and starts to freak out, screaming and pulling her hair out). She does a pretty impressive re-do for both directors, rolling around on the floor and screaming and pulling at herself, and while she was hesitant at first, it’s clear by the end that she’s had a taste of the kind of desperation it takes to make it big and she’s ready for more.
Her next visit with the casting directors — her “transformation” — is pretty jarring and awesome. I liked that they kept things vague enough to leave you thinking, but the scene itself still made you uncomfortable. I also liked that the very fact that she showed up to this second call already demonstrated how willing she was to do anything — they treated her like garbage in the first call, and told her she was only invited back because of her episode, indicating from the get-go that they were more interested in her willingness to do anything than her talent, and yet she is eager and downright excited to go back.
“If you can’t fully let yourself go, how can you ever transform into something else?”
She soon gets called for a meeting with the producer, clearly a high honor. I couldn’t get past wanting him to be played by Ray Wise, but I think Louis Dezseran does a good job of being the right combination of sleazy and all-powerful. Again, it is made clear pretty quickly that she needs to give up a part of herself — a part of her that has morals and standards — to get this role. You can tell that even though she walks out, there’s a big part of her that hesitated. Her giving up the role means begging for her job back — a job she had dramatically quit not long ago — and you can see her sinking deeper into her willingness to give her very self up for stardom.
“I kind of feel I’m selling my soul already. So it might as well be for something I love.”
She, under the influence of drugs, finds her way to the producer’s home for a second chance. It’s a whole mess of occult references, sexual deeds, and initiation, and she is more than willing to say yes to anything they ask of her. She wakes up the next morning seemingly foggy on what happened, and this is when her physical transformation begins, setting off debilitating stomach pains, the loss of her hair (clearly symbolizing her previous self), and generally the crumbling of her body as a whole.
She is seemingly desperate to know what is happening to her, and is convinced that she’s dying, but she receives a call from the producer who tells her, in essence, that she can’t expect the road to stardom to be easy, and that it — and they — require a sacrifice. She doesn’t hesitate to accept this challenge and kill several of her friends, and the scene is GRUESOME to say the least, especially since there is barely any gore up until this point (aside from her transformation, which is also really disturbing). One killing in particular, where she takes a dumbbell to a girl’s head, is INTENSE, and just her sheer determination and lack of emotion really seals the deal. She is absolutely cold-hearted.
Soon after she goes through her final rebirth, which I thought was pretty neat, complete with her new birthday and her new eyes, and the killing off of the last remnant of her past life when she kills her roommate.
Overall a pretty solid movie with an interesting, albeit overplayed, plot. I still thought it was a unique perspective on the concept of “horror” — passing by the fantastic to go after something that is much more pervasive, and much more real, in our every day society, even when it’s on a smaller scale than vying for a role on the silver screen.
Rating: 6/10 | Directors: Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer | Starring: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabianne Therese