The Hunger (1983)

The Hunger (1983)


A six hundred years old vampire, Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion), realizes that her lover, John (David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth), is dying so she begins entertaining the idea of finding a replacement. Meanwhile, John tries to get help from a scientist, Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking), who works on ageing research. But when Sarah meets Miriam, she quickly falls under her spell.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Erotic, postmodernist vampire opus is the kind of movie that one would describe as “style over substance,” or perhaps this is the case of “style IS the substance.”

First time I watched The Hunger I was not all that enthused with it. Expecting a bit more horror, I thought the film was bit too artsy for its own. But, every time I rewatch it, I find myself liking it a bit more. I get the naysayers — after all, I used to feel like them — but I’ve learned to appreciate what this movie is trying do.

The screenplay is by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas, based on Whitley Strieber’s novel. The Hunger marked the film debut of Tony Scott (Top Gun), Ridley’s (Alien and Blade Runner) younger brother (Ridley originally intended to direct the movie). Scott’s background in TV commercials and music videos is apparent from the very first scenes. There is something about how he constructs scenes that reminded me of an early MTV video. Having Bowie play an important role in the film only reinforces the feeling that you are watching a music video where the songs have been removed. But that’s not a bad thing. The New Wave vibe blends well with the idea of reinterpreting vampire folklore in a modern, urban setting.

The studio-imposed ending is hard to defend, though. It neglects the entire premise of the film, which is really that immortality is not all it’s cracked up to be. All things, good or bad, must come to an end, the film argues. The finale goes against the thesis of the movie.

The Hunger is a tour-de-force of montage. There are so many great-looking moments. There is really little dialogue throughout the movie — this is all about images, sounds, atmosphere. Sets, camera work, editing, etc., every technical aspect is pretty awesome. Kudos to make-up genius Dick Smith (The Exorcist and Amadeus), who designed the then state-of-the-art ageing make-up. Smith specialized in making actors look older (e.g. Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, Marlon Brando in The Godfather) so it goes without saying that the make-up in the movie is nearly flawless

The actors were perfectly casted. Deneuve’s glacial beauty is used to the film’s advantage. She also has this old European quality that fits the part so well. Bowie was born to play non-humans. Everything about him is unique. Sarandon creates fantastic contrast between her earthiness and Deneuve’s and Bowie’s larger-than-life personalities. They just make an interesting trio. Co-starring Dan Hedaya (Blood Simple) and Cliff De Young (Flight of the Navigator). Last film role of Silent Star Bessie Love (The Lost World). Willem Dafoe (Platoon) has a bit as a street punk.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Despite the controversy surrounding the production — the homoerotic subtext raised more than a few eyebrows — The Hunger wasn’t the box office success its moribund studio, MGM, was hoping for. The movie has, however, gained a cult following over the years and it remains an interesting addition to the horror genre. It is also a divisive movie — you be the judge. Followed by a short-lived TV series. Color, 97 minutes, Rated R.

4 responses to “The Hunger (1983)

  1. I initially saw this film in the theaters when it was released, and there were a few walkouts, including my buddy who had to leave because of the amount of blood (which made him nauseous to the point of feeling faint).

    My reaction to it was quite the opposite. While I recall liking it quite a bit, it has not lived up to my memory of it. I now see it as all style with very little substance – though still pretty to look at.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never thought it was gory. It’s pretty tame compared to ’80s horror movies like Evil Dead and The Thing. Back then the sex scenes shocked me more than anything else. I had never seen two very famous actresses in a steamy sexual encounter. Different times, different attitudes. I remembered being surprised at the kiss between Chris Reeve and Michael Caine (in Deathtrap). Anyhow, The Hunger is indeed a case of style-over-substance. But why complain when the style is so good ! 😉


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