The Hunger (1983)

reviewed by
Dennis Schwartz

HUNGER, THE (director: Tony Scott; screenwriters: from a novel by Whitley Streiber/James Costigan/Ivan Davis/Thomas Davis, Jr./Michael Thomas; cinematographer: Stephen Goldblatt; editor: Pamela Power; cast: Catherine Deneuve (Miriam Blaylock), David Bowie (John Blaylock), Susan Sarandon (Dr. Sarah Roberts), Cliff De Young (Tom Haver), Beth Ehlers (Alice Cavender), Dan Hedaya (Lt. Allegrezza), Rufus Collins (Charlie); Runtime: 97; MGM; 1983)

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British director Tony Scott (Top Gun), the brother of Ridley, has made a kinky horror film. It features style over substance and is less worried about storytelling than in looking odd and being confusingly mod. The film leaves too many loose ends as to what the heck is going on for it be clearly understood. It can best be enjoyed for its visual beauty, especially, in its smoky gothic images of the Manhattan skyline and the luxury residence of the antiheroes. To understand what's really happening requires reading Whitley Streiber's novel, from which the film is based. It then becomes clear that the plotline is about Catherine Deneuve as an ageless vampire, a former Egyptian queen, who is a survivor of an ancient immortal race dependent on humans for both nourishment and companionship. Since her alien blood is superior to human's, she's better able to fight off diseases and the aging process. By mixing her blood with her lovers, it allows them a triple lifetime until they will suddenly die. Since this info is only clear by reading the book, this film makes a gross error in its filmmaking decisions by not letting these details out of the bag in its storytelling.

John Blaylock (Bowie) and Miriam (Deneuve) are lovers living together in a luxurious NYC brownstone. To meet their sanguinary needs, the pair takes in the New York disco scene in search of vics. In a richly colorful opening segment, Bauhaus, accompanied by the Goth band, sings "Bela Lugosi's Dead."

The next morning after a friendly young violin student, Alice (Ehlers), visits the friendless couple, John begins deteriorating. The couple are watching TV and a gimmicky research scientist, Dr. Sarah Roberts (Sarandon), is plugging her best-seller "Sleep and Longevity." Miriam buys a copy of the book and meets the author at a book signing. John seeing that he aged a decade overnight and is now in his thirties, decides to visit Sarah's research center. When he approaches her and tells her his problem, she thinks he's a kook and fluffs him off by telling him to wait for her in the patients' waiting room for 15 minutes. When she doesn't appear until after two hours, John has aged to look like an old man and rushes out of the hospital telling her that she let him down. This was the best scene in the film, as Dick Smith's makeup for the aging Bowie was terrific.

There's also a murder mystery thrown in as Alice returns to see Miriam, but only the decrepit looking John is home. She doesn't recognize him, but thinks he must be John's father. He pulls his vampire act on her and when she is reported missing, a detective (Hedaya) comes calling on the Blaylock's questioning Miriam about Alice. But this will only go reported as another unsolved NYC crime.

After learning of her mistake the scientist, working with a team of doctors to get funding for her own aging experiments, traces John to his brownstown. But she is told by Miriam that he's in Switzerland. He's really been placed by Miriam in a box in her attic. Miriam now in need of a new lover, seduces Sarah into a steamy lesbian affair. Their passion is consummated by a mingling of Miriam's blood with Sarah's, which will give them a psychic link and leave Sarah as a vampire with a healthy appetite for blood.

The Hunger left me craving for a more filling movie. In the hands of a better director, this cult film could have been a real tasty treat.

REVIEWED ON 4/5/2001     GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"


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