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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 (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.
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.