Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) is a centuries-old vampire living in modern New York City who realizes that her vampire lover (David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth), is aging rapidly. The undead couple try to get help from a renowned scientist, Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking), who is known for her expertise in the field of gerontology.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Humankind dies one way, we another.”
Sensuous, gorgeously baroque postmodernist vampire opus is the kind of movie that can be described as “style-over-substance,” or perhaps this is the case of “style IS the substance.” The Hunger is a super-stylish horror movie that cleverly channels old vampire legends and myths through modern sensibilities.
Based on Whitley Strieber’s 1981 novel of the same name, The Hunger has always been accused of being too artsy for its own. I get the naysayers — after all, I used to feel like them — but over multiple viewers I’ve learned to appreciate what this movie is trying to do. I now feel that this is one of the most interesting horror movies of the 1980s.
The Hunger marked the film debut of Tony Scott, Ridley’s (Alien) younger brother. Scott’s background in TV commercials and music videos is all too apparent. The film looks like an old MTV music video where the songs have been removed. But, in my opinion, that’s not necessarily a bad thing — the New Wave vibe blends well with the idea of reinterpreting elements of vampire lore in a modern setting.
The film is a dazzling technical achievement. There is 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), who designed the then state-of-the-art aging make-up effects.
Unfortunately, director Scott wasn’t allowed to fulfill his vision. The studio-imposed ending is a glaring flaw. The last images neglect the entire premise of the film, which is really that immortality is not all it’s cracked up to be. The finale goes against the thesis of the movie — the esoteric The Hunger demanded a more nuanced ending.
The actors were perfectly cast. Catherine Deneuve’s glacial beauty is used to the film’s advantage. She has this old European quality that fits the part so well. British singer David Bowie is also great as Deneuve’s long-time companion — everything about Bowie is unique, so I’ve always thought that he was born to play non-humans!
Susan Sarandon creates a fantastic contrast between her earthiness and Deneuve and Bowie’s larger-than-life personalities — they just make an interesting trio. The astounding cast also includes Dan Hedaya (Blood Simple) and Cliff De Young (Flight of the Navigator). Last film role of silent star Bessie Love (The Broadway Melody). Willem Dafoe (The Last Temptation of Christ) has a bit part 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. It’s a movie that continues to divide horror aficionados — you be the judge. Followed by a short-lived TV series. Color, 97 minutes, Rated R.
I agree – I liked this movie better the second time I watched it too. The love scene with Deneuve and Sarandon is quite mesmerising! Great review 🙂
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Yes. The love scenes are very erotic and sensual. It doesn’t feel exploitative.
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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.
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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 ! 😉