November 13, 2015 by Liza Lou
Let’s be honest here, I only gave this film the time of day because the words David Bowie were emblazoned across it. Any of my friends will tell you how much I love that man and the local club DJ could probably recount a thousand times when I’m drunkenly slurred ‘play me some Bowie’ in his direction – it’s a habit.
Anyhoo, opening credits happen and they scroll over a scene in a seedy little goth club which is just my sort of place. Also (and this gains major bonus points) Bauhaus are playing in what looks to be a cage. Less than three minutes in and this film aesthetically is perfect because of the above and the fact that I have just seen Bowie’s nose.
And then I get lost, totally. Bowie caresses someone’s breasts as a woman rips at a man’s shirt. Bauhaus seem to have turned into monkeys and there’s a whole load of lips and saliva. Seems now might be a good time to mention that this film is an erotic horror.
It transpires that the woman is a vampire called Miriam Blaylock and she is beautiful because she is played by Catherine Deneuve (Belle De Jour). Bowie plays John, her partner who feeds on human victims for supposed eternal youth. This doesn’t exist of course and when he starts aging all manner of peculiar stuff starts to happen starting with a visit to a doctor played by Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise) called Sarah.
I’m going to leave the plot-line there for a moment while I focus on the overall look of the film because that’s what I remember the most. This is the work of Tony Scott (God rest his soul) and it’s blatantly obvious. I am a huge fan of both True Romance and Crimson Tide and although it’s fair to say that Scott’s technique spans across many genres there are certainly traits that define him. The Hunger is highly stylized and has choppy editing that I associate with Scott. The film is beautiful to look at despite some of its subject matter and feels overtly contemporary for the early 80’s. For me, the direction is the definitive strength here and although I am not a fan of ‘style over substance’ as a rule I am never going to say no to slow motion shots of Bowie smoking a cigarette.
While I am talking about the vision of the film it’s worth noting that during that during the opening it listed a make up illusionist. This term is new to me and I had no idea what it meant. You only need to get half hour in to see Bowie’s aged transformation happen over a series of shots though and there’s no doubt that the term is both founded and real… again marvelous for the time.
The plot itself is ropy even if I could see what they were trying to do. Apparently it’s a loose adaptation of a novel but I couldn’t tell you by how much or if the book is any good because I haven’t read it. I do know that as far as Vampire films go for me, this one is in the bottom of the pile. There is so much that could have been explored properly that the film wasn’t able to grant enough attention to. As a result the rest is weakened despite trying.. too hard.
Deneuve plays sultry siren well although the role doesn’t really expect too much from her. That said, there is a point when her character’s personality does a complete twist which is so lost in translation that even Bowie cannot fix it. As for him, it was never about his acting skills for me even know I know he has them. The problem is that I see him as the Johnny Depp of the 80’s, destined to play the weirdo, kook or freak albeit good enough. I jut always see another incarnation of him on screen, another panto part that he is playing but meh, did I mention I LOVE him? Sarandon is somewhat of a saviour with her intensity and potent tongue. I laughed at her hair do and may have even gasped during her final scene but all in all, apart from being pleasing on the eye, the film in it’s entirety is a little flat.