Reviews

Alexandra Essoe in "Starry Eyes"

A collection of reviews for Starry Eyes

"If David Lynch and David Cronenberg came together to craft a gory, psychological mindbender, it might be Starry Eyes." - Michael Roffman

Read the full review at TIME.com.

"The oft-told tale of a struggling actress seeking her first big break gets a juicy new spin in the psychodrama/body-horror hybrid “Starry Eyes.” Featuring a knockout performance by Alex Essoe as a sweet young hopeful who transforms into a nasty, feral nutcase after selling much more than her soul to a shadowy production company, the pic pushes the Tinseltown nightmare scenario to inventive and exciting extremes." - Richard Kuipers

Read the full review at Variety.

''What price fame?'' is not an original question. But writer-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer break new ground with the horrific answer they deliver. Alex Essoe plays an L.A. actress whose desperate quest for success leads her to a sinister organization. You'll have to watch this skillful combination of occult thriller and Cronenbergian gruesome-fest to find out what happens next. Horror fans should keep their eyes on the filmmakers — and Essoe, who gives a star-making performance. B+" - Clark Collis

Read the full review at Entertainment Weekly.

"Starry Eyes" is consistently focused on its heroine and her all-consuming insecurities. Widmyer and Kolsch are smart enough to know that, after a point, Sarah is responsible for her actions since she let her insecurity cloud her judgment. She is, in that sense, always presented as a monster since she's always trying to refashion herself in a way that make an asset of her poor body image. "Starry Eyes" may leave you feeling hopeless, but its bleak vision of masochistic perfectionism is clear-eyed, cogent, and devastatingly unsettling." - Simon Abrams

Read the full review at RogerEbert.com.

"This movie is a study of the devastating effects of the quest for perfection by way of Argento and Cronenberg. This film will no doubt garner comparisons to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes – both films that dealt with the artistic quest for fame and perfection through surrealistic lenses. It calls to mind the sleazy satanic cult films of yesteryear like To the Devil a Daughter and Virgin Witch. What I’m getting at here is that this film is never just one type of horror film, and while it has many influences, none of this film feels borrowed – it fully creates itself into something wholly unique. This could very well be the best horror film of the year." - Dylan Griffin

Read the full review at SoundOnSite.

"Much will be said about Starry Eyes' final act, a barrage of murder, bloodshed, and ritualistic cultism. And, deservedly, Widmyer and Kolsch will be awarded props for intelligently merging the black comedy of Hollywood failure with the Cronenberg-like body horror and slasher-movie brutality. But, for me, Alexandra Essoe is the main reason why Starry Eyes will stick with me long after SXSW concludes. I can still see her, as Sara, punishing herself by painfully uprooting all of those follicles. The secondhand trauma is something special." - Matt Barone

Read the full review at Complex Magazine.

"Starry Eyes is a most welcome addition to the Hollywood nightmare genre that dates as far back as Sunset Boulevard (and earlier) and in more recent years includes all-time favorite Mulholland Drive. The genius of Starry Eyes is that it melds the abstract Lynchian nightmare with the body horror of Cronenberg as Walker abandons her integrity, literally morphing into the type of creature who will do and eventually does everything it takes to gain acceptance in the superficial world that champions image over talent." - Zach Gayne

Read the full review at Twitch Film.

"Starry Eyes" still

"Starry Eyes is a low budget film, but Kolsch and Widmyer make good use of Los Angeles locations to make it feel bigger. More than that, they’ve invested heavily in the script, writing a movie with character and theme… and a gloriously bloody climax. Usually you only get one or the other (or, increasingly with cheapie DTV horror in the post-Ti West world, neither), but Starry Eyes - like its lead character - wants to have it all." - Devin Faraci

Read the full review at Badass Digest.

"With "Starry Eyes," the duo of Widmyer and Kölsch blend up traditional horror genre elements, including demonic possession and bodily transformation, with suspense thriller tropes, while mixing in some 1970s Grindhouse movie moments involving babes in bikinis at the pool and working at a Hooters-esque fast-food joint." - Ed Moy

Read the full review at The Examiner.

"All the gore is first-rate, but not as impressive as the performances. It’s ironic that Starry Eyes is about a young actress catching a big break in a horror, because Essoe should earn plenty of attention for her performance here. She keeps our focus and makes us hope Sarah will choose to do the right thing." - Jack Giroux

Read the full review at Film School Rejects.

"Think Melrose Place: The Cronenberg years." 4 Stars - Kat Smith

Read the full review at The Hollywood News.

"The finale is an unexpected jolt to the system with some terrific body horror bringing the curtain down brilliantly on a razor-sharp shot across the bows of Tinseltown." 4 stars - Gary McConnachie

Read the full review at The Daily Record.

"A truly spectacular performance from Essoe, combined with a killer soundtrack and a constant underlying terror made Starry Eyes one of the highlights of the festival. Such a masterful grasp of tension and the creation of genuine fear of the unexpected also sees directors Kolsch and Widmyer as very exciting prospects for the future. Intense, uncomfortable and bloody brilliant." - Oliver Ryder 10/10

Read the full review at UK Horror Scene.

"Written with great subtlety, the identity of Starry Eyes is as divided as its protagonist's, so that it works all at once as a cultish tale of diabolism under the Hollywood sign, as a grim satire of the movie system, and as a tragic psychodrama of a Lynchian 'woman in trouble'. It is all held together by an astonishing performance from Essoe herself, perfectly conveying her character's simultaneous ascent and descent into that unworldly stratosphere occupied only by the genuinely stellar - and the truly delusional." - Anton Bitel 4 stars

Read the full review at Grolsch Film Works.

 

'Starry Eyes;

"Alex Essoe gives a star-making performance with the character, running the gamut of emotions from timid actress, to empowered film star to psychotic killer to something else… All in the space of 90 minutes!" - Phil Wheat

Read the full review at Nerdly.

"This is about as far removed from run-of-the-mill horror fare as you can imagine – and is all the better for it." 4 stars - Simon Fitzjohn

Read the full review at Movie Ramblings.

"Starry Eyes is a hauntingly resonate film that rings with truth in the first half and cutting metaphor in the second. Like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive this is a film about the destructive nature of Hollywood on the frail and weak, and like that film, I hold Starry Eyes in high regard. The emotional wreckage that is Sarah’s mind is terrifyingly real and disturbing to watch. When the film slips into horror, it is a smooth transition that packs a punch you won’t walk away from." - Christopher Jimenez

Read the full review at Sinful Celluloid.

"Alex Essoe is a revelation and Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer look to be upcoming masters of this genre." 4 stars - Luke Owen

Read the full review at Flickering Myth.

"Full credit to the writer-director duo of Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer for their efforts on Starry Eyes. Their sensibilities make for some of the best that horror has to offer. Gore alone means nothing if it isn’t supported by a movie’s essential diet of a good story, strong characters and rich themes. Their film delivers on all fronts, demonstrating that they are a force for good in the world of horror movie making in the United States. While the protagonist in the film should have been careful of what she wished for, fans can unapologetically wish for more from these bold filmmakers." - Edgar Chaput

Read the full review at SoundOnSite.

"Starry Eyes is a finely crafted horror movie and study of one woman's quest to obtain stardom at any cost or opportunity. Here, becoming a movie star is depicted as a literal transformative and transcending process." - Martyn Conterio

Read the full review at Horror Flickers.

"Of the fest’s 20 features, two stood out partly due to terrific lead performances. In Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes, a biting and increasingly gruesome depiction of the lengths people will go in the name of success, striving young actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) finds her life dramatically altered when she tries out for the lead role in a horror film to be produced by a legitimate if not wholly reputable studio. The first audition, conducted by two creepy weirdos, sends her into a dark and revealing place—with some of Sarah’s unusual, previously private habits coming in handy—and two further callbacks push her over the edge. She begins to fall apart (a disintegration not dissimilar, yet far superior, to that of the girl who catches a nasty “STD” in last year’s Contracted) as she becomes increasingly psychotic, and Essoe’s brave performance (and her own first starring role to boot) is fully engaging, even as her character disengages."

Read the full review at Film Comment.

"Starry Eyes took me places that I didn't think modern horror was still capable of. The influences are all there on display, but it manages to feel wholly original. Every assumption I made about where the story was headed was proved wrong at every turn, much to my delight and surprise. There's so much going on in the film thematically and even cross-genre that nothing should seemingly work at all, yet it all pays off and does so impeccably. Starry Eyes is quite easily the horror film of the year, possibly even the next 5 to 10. It is truly a must see." - Matt Hardeman

Read the full review at The HDRoom.

"There are plenty of (usually independently produced) movies that take firm aim on the "eat 'em up and spit 'em out" nature of Hollywood. (My favorites are Swimming with Sharks, Living in Oblivion, The Player, and The Day of the Locust.) But while those films are satirical and often very funny deconstructions of The Hollywood Machine, the new indie horror film Starry Eyes is sort of a kick-straight-to-the nuts of the film industry." - Scott Weinberg

Read the full review at FEARNet.

"Not dissimilar from this year’s Sundance hit WHIPLASH, STARRY EYES refuses to look away from a character willing to go an immensely horrifying distance for her desires. Kolsch & Widmyer are clearly attuned to the pitch black nature that consumes Sarah but, like the alluring score, there’s something stirring in her eventual transformation of living through an actor’s worst cosmetic nightmare and still forcibly taking what she wants." - Sam Zimmerman

Read the full review at Fangoria.

"It’s somewhat ironic that Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch’s Starry Eyes, a film that literally singles out ambition as the blackest of human qualities, is the most ambitious film I have seen thus far at SXSW this year. That’s not to say that the film succumbs to the same temptations as its protagonist (an admirably raw and vulnerable Alex Essoe), but both the movie and its subject employ a black hearted scorched earth tactic – the efficacy of which is hard to deny." - Evan Dickson

Read the full review at Bloody Disgusting.

"Starry Eyes is certainly an engaging and eerie story of risk, sacrifice and transformation. It’s an unsettling examination of whether you’re open to selling your soul to sell out. And when Sarah makes her choice, it’s then that Starry Eyes lays bare its black heart and we witness the corrosive side of high ambitions in the film industry. The film becomes a smart and sly indictment against Hollywood for the murder of independent cinema that’s masked in a Rosemary’s Baby-esque tale." - Ryan Turek

Read the full review at Shock Till You Drop.

Such a masterful grasp of tension and the creation of genuine fear of the unexpected also sees directors Kolsch and Widmyer as very exciting prospects for the future. Intense, uncomfortable and bloody brilliant. - Oliver Ryder

Read the full review at UK Horror Scene.

Alex Essoe one of year's best performances, the kind for which words like "fearless" and "revelatory" are often thrown around as long as it's a prestige picture being discussed. Fuck that. Essoe is fearless and revelatory. There are moments and images in the movie that are impossible to shake. Isn't that what good horror movies are meant to do? To shake us, to haunt us and unsettle us. I didn't realize it at the time, but Starry Eyes was doing exactly that. - Patrick Bromley

Read the full review at F This Movie!.

"Starry Eyes"

"Starry Eyes' story is not uncommon, but its execution is grand. The film is harrowing and insightful, unafraid to go to places both dark and deep. It's also fun, or it will be to gorehounds and horrorphiles. The effects makeup is wonderful (by which I mean disgusting), and the ritualistic stuff is just completely excellent. Jonathan Snipes is responsible for a score that's smart and ominous and groovy, and the entire package feels like such a splendid throwback to the religious horror of the '60s and '70s." - Meredith Borders

Read the full review at Badass Digest.

"This is slow burn horror at its best- slowly revealing itself to the audience before exploding into a torrent of carnage and mayhem.  Featuring scenes of excessive creepiness and sparse bits of extreme violence, this is the perfect example of how horror movies used to be." - Adam Patterson

Read the full review at Film Pulse.

"This is an exciting and brilliant work of originality, a possession movie that examines our society’s obsession with fame. Kolsch and Widmyer have crafted something special. Fans of violent and cerebral horror films owe it to themselves to see this film." - Daniel Tucker

Read the full review at Next Projection.

"The Hollywood that exists in the world of Starry Eyes can’t be found anywhere else, while also being an amalgam of every version of Hollywood we’ve seen or heard about. Seeing the places that Kolsch and Widmyer went on their debut feature just makes me all that more excited for every other movie they ever make, as Starry Eyes was one of the smartest, creepiest, disturbing, surreal, and also entertaining movies to come out of SXSW." - The Wolfman

Read the full review at The Wolfman Cometh.

"Starry Eyes is the best horror film of 2014 thus far – a movie so fresh and inspired that it makes me believe there’s still some life (or death) left in this genre after all." - Famous Monster

Read the full review at Geeks Of Doom.

"Like the best horror, Starry Eyes comes from a very grounded and relatable place, despite its fantastic premise. Sure its got demonic and occult underpinnings, yet those strangely aren’t the most horrifying things here. Instead, the film has a lot to say about the darkness inherent in us all, shown best by what Sarah is willing to unleash in order to chase her dreams. Starry Eyes is frightening because it finds horror in the hidden parts of ourselves that are just waiting for us to explore." - SG 4.5 stars

Read the full review at Chrome Yellow.

"On its surface, "Starry Eyes" tells a horror story of physical metamorphosis while the deeper theme underneath explores the more intangible terrors that come with transformation.  "Starry Eyes" is a body horror movie, but it also makes wise use of the Hollywood dream premise to deliver a frightening fable about duality, false faces, and compromising one's character in a wayward effort to create a new personality based on presumption." - Culture Crypt

Read the full review at Culture Crypt.

"Starry Eyes"

"I really can’t recommend this flick enough; it’s mean, gory, and a great homage to genre’s past while still being its own thang; and I haven’t enjoyed a fright flick this much in a longassed time." - Daniel XIII

Read the full review at Famous Monsters of Filmland.

"On the surface level, it is an ucky, grimy and viscous story delving into a dark outlook on fame and self-sacrifice. But if you dig deeper and replace visceral grossness for symbolic meaning, you get a far more unsettling drama about what it means to give up yourself to become something you never thought, deep down, that you could be. Because in the end, the destination is only valuable if you haven’t given up every part of your humanity to get there. Starry Eyes gets right to the heart of that question in a most scary and satisfying way." - Horror-Movies.ca

Read the full review at Horror-Movies.ca.

"Starry Eyes presents a fresh take on a recycled Hollywood journey, one that oozes passionate horror love and dramatic, psychologically-charged storytelling. You’ve seen it before, but you haven’t seen it like this" - Matt Donato

Read the full review at WeGotThisCovered.

"The whole selling your soul to the devil thing has been done before and probably in more subtle ways but subtlety is not Kolsch and Widmyer's game. Rather Starry Eyes is such a horrifying victory for them because of how far they're willing to take us. This deep down the rabbit hole, everything is so pitch black that we can't see even the faintest flicker of light and they, in this realm of deprivation, they mine the scares perfectly. It's unrelenting darkness opens the flood gates, letting the horror flow from what's onscreen and those other thoughts that exist in our imagination alone. It's the perfect synthesis of shock, disgust and angst that'll have audiences turning in their seats and watched through the crooks of hands shielding their faces." - Matt Oakes

Read the full review at SilverScreenRiot.

"Filmmakers have strong history of turning the cameras back onto filmmaking. And who can blame them? They know that film is a shared interest with their captive audience, and it must be satisfying to write what you know. STARRY EYES is a horror film, about the horror of an actress trying to get a part in a film, which is about making a horror film. Though these layers do not confuse, it goes to show the extent to which filmmakers love navel gazing. After briefly acknowledging the inherent narcissism here, I will tell you that STARRY EYES is dark film that successfully convinces me to never move to Hollywood." - Deirdre Crimmins

Read the full review at AllThingsHorror.

"With a serious feminist bent, Starry Eyes delves into the feelings of a young woman in a patriarchal society, and none is more patriarchal than the movie industry. But the movie isn’t just a feminist rant. It’s also a good, solid horror film with some great gore effects." - Professor Wagstaff

Read the full review at Professor Wagstaff.

Stay tuned for more reviews as they flow in!