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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hunger Pains

hunger1 The Hunger may have very well been the first movie added to my Netflix instant queue, and the reason I say that is, it’s been the first movie on that ridiculous queue for well over a year. I wanted to see it and even started watching it at least twice, but it was late each time, and I passed out very early on. To be honest, it didn’t really seem like anything special from what I saw of it before dozing off. Then finally, after some pressure from the old lady - who was tired of seeing the same movie sitting there at the beginning of my queue for more than a year - I broke down and watched 1983’s The Hunger.

I had completely forgotten that it was a Tony Scott movie, probably because I added it so long ago, but I'm sure his name was a selling point for me adding it to my list originally. I like some of his films, not all of them are great but he has done some solid work and having his name pop up in the opening credits to a Vampire film (and his first) from the 80’s, certainly is appealing.

hunger3 As for the opening scene that I had previously fallen asleep to (and almost did this time, but I fought like a lion to stay awake, son!), the same opening scene I deemed lackluster, I quickly realized that I must have fallen asleep in the first minute or two those other times I tried to watch the film. The Hunger's beginning is about as far from lackluster as it gets, as it starts off in a sort of Goth club, with a music video style performance intercut with an introduction to our two main characters, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John (David Bowie), the film’s opening left me very surprised and excited to move forward.

hunger2 It’s a very flashy introduction, totally absorbing in how it just comes at you, showing how Miriam and John pick up another couple for a night of partner swapping, but their motives are much more sinister as you witness them slice open their prospective lay’s and drink the sweet lifeblood as it leaves their unsuspecting victim’s bodies. These event’s aren't presented in a straight forward fashion, instead, they intercut in such a chaotic way and without dialogue, just physical acting and quickly edited moments to show the viewer what is happening. This opening tells you everything you need to know about Miriam and John in such a simple and indirect way.

I was simply impressed with this very unconventional and stylish start to the film, but what’s even better is, The Hunger never goes near anything like that again. It is just a set up to show what John and Miriam have been doing for what would be a very long time in order to fulfill their needs. The Hunger then becomes a pretty slow moving character study, and even the filming style and the look of it become almost like a modern version of a gothic styled horror movie. Very cold and quiet with much of the film set in John and Miriam’s flat which conveys a sense of solitude and almost looks like a museum, filled with a rich history.

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“The Goth club” John and Miriam as seen in the opening kill scene are much different and use that facade to find prey. In reality, they are elegant and in a way seem to live a classy life style that would come from living for numerous centuries and through a multitude of culture changes that reflects in their taste and how they live. They seem much older than they are, which is actually the case. That is where the film’s conflict would come into play, when John begins to suddenly age very rapidly. He seeks the help of Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) who specializes in age research, but she chalks his rapid aging problems up to insanity and brushes him off.

hunger5 However, Miriam seems to be infatuated with Sarah after seeing her talk about her research on television, and now with John fastly aging to the point of nothingness, she appears to be ready to move on to a new partner in her life. There is no sure reason for why John ages rapidly, but it’s very clear that Miriam knows what is going on with him, and it becomes apparent as to how she knows later on in the film in what is a fantastic reveal. This reveal also drastically changes gears for the characters in the movie, and when you think it’s going one way with the story of John’s sudden descent into old age, it turn’s into a seduction tale with Miriam swooning the Sarah character.

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While I said that The Hunger is a Vampire flick, it is hardly like many of the better known films that the genre had to offer in the 1980’s. These “Vampires” are not affected by the sunlight (though they are never directly in the sun at any point in the movie), they do not sport fangs nor is there a coffin anywhere to be found hunger(kind of). With that said, The Hunger still works like a Vampire film but an original and fresh take on the genre, almost like Romero’s Martin was when it came out in ‘77. Unlike Martin, however, there is a strong supernatural element to the characters, with Miriam living eternally and how she has the ability to mesmerize her potential victims. These atypical Vampires are not creatures or even monsters in their appearance, but for whatever reason, they need blood or at least have a hunger for it.

For something that is sort of a Vampire movie, it is not, as is the case with how it works as a horror movie. It is, but it isn’t. While there is some bloodshed at times, overall, it is a slow moving film that takes the time to get to know the characters and the world that they live in, instead of focusing on the animalistic aspect of Vampires and/or their mythology. It looks at more the power that Miriam has over John and Sarah and how she uses that power to whatever best suits her slightly selfish needs.

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A complete fresh breath of air, The Hunger was a big surprise in what it is, compared to what I expected of it initially. Even when I thought I had my head wrapped around it, the story (based on a Whitley "alien rape" Strieber novel) would take a turn and bring in something new, keeping everything from getting stale. Though, the ending is a little off from the overall feel of the movie and almost takes a silly E.C. Comicsish turn, it’s a fun and highly satisfying way for it to finish the way it does for all of the characters.

So, while I don’t have to look at this film every time I fire up watch instantly and go to my queue, I do know that it will not be the last time I see The Hunger, that’s for sure.

9 comments:

  1. I was shocked that you didn't get roped in right at the beginning. As I said in my review *plug plug* (http://paracinemamag.blogspot.com/2009/06/hunger-1983.html), I fell in love with that club scene. I'm glad you got into once you actually, well, got into it! That Bauhaus song is SO SUPER TIGHT!
    Great movie and I loved reading your thoughts. Glad you finally were able to knock this one off the instant queue.

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  2. Its been years since I have seen this one, but I remember enjoying it. For reasons beyond comprehension, I always think of CAT PEOPLE when I think of THE HUNGER. Maybe the 2nd viewing will pay off even more than the first for both of us!

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  3. "The Hunger" is one of those movies I love more and more every time I watch it. I found it a snooze (after the Bauhaus scene, anyway) when I first encountered it at age sixteen, but as an ever-aging person of the Goth persuasion, I find its themes to be increasingly poignant. It's a beautifully-lensed film, and I love your observation that it's an 80s-modern take on that classic gothic vampire style. Great write-up, and I'm so glad that you've come under the spell of "The Hunger" as well!

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  4. Christine: I'm glad I finally got to it too, Christine, and your review was certainly a reason I did still give it a chance after I feel asleep those first couple of times. That opening is so fantastic in how it unfold, and the narrative it uses to introduce the viewer to the characters is done in such a smart way.

    Carl: It's probably the sex appeal of both films that puts them together in your mind, Carl. They both do have that certain sexuality about them, but I haven't seen Cat People in a wicked long time. It's on instant too, so I may have to check it out again.

    Kate: That was a nice little rhyme! I would guess that if I saw it at a younger age that I wouldn't have appreciated the film after the opening either, so I can see why you wouldn't be so hot on it at 16. It's definitely a smart and very mature film and is something that is better appreciated by a smart and mature film fan I think.

    Angie: If the review wasn't already so long, I would have gotten more into Bowie, but he was quite fantastic in the film and if that is at all an appeal, you should check it out!

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  5. I think the only thing preventing me from watching this is my undying hatred for David Bowie, because this sounds like a terrific movie.

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  6. You should still check it out if you find the time, Mike. Bowie is not in it as much as you would think and hopefully his presence wouldn't ruin the film for you.

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  7. I too, have been a victim of slumber with my three attempts at watching this movie. It had nothing to do with it not being captivating (I was in from the first scene) it's because I'd put it on right before bed which was just not smart. I never got to the end of the 2nd act but if the twists keep coming as you say, I'll definately have to re-visit this one.

    Great review!

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  8. I did the same thing, Ashlee and waited till it was really late to start watching it, which is always a mistake. I would definitely recommend a full viewing...I think you will enjoy the film quite a bit.

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