- Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock
- David Bowie as John Blaylock
- Susan Sarandon as Dr. Sarah Roberts
A stylish vampire horror with lots of 80’s excess and blood, The Hunger is also a very mixed film in terms of quality and watch ability. For all its visual panache and atmosphere, with the added bonus of a good cast, The Hunger in the end left me wanting something more from it and I felt that there was something missing from it.
Miriam Blaylock is a centuries old vampire who has the ability to bestow immortality on people she takes as consorts to ease her loneliness. Her current companion is John Blaylock, who has been with her for two hundred years travelling from domain to domain. The two are now in New York in a high-rise apartment, which they use to lure back unsuspecting victims to feed on their blood at least once a week. John believes that his youthful appearance will last forever but soon learns that it doesn’t. He will in fact live forever, but Miriam has not told him that his physical appearance will drastically wither away. Soon enough, John’s appearance begins to age at an alarming rate. Wanting help, he seeks out Dr. Sarah Roberts, a determined scientist who studies cases of advanced aging. At first she dismisses him, but after witnessing him age in just over two hours, she is shocked and wants to help. Unlucky for John, the aging continues and Miriam buries him in a coffin, alongside her other lovers over the years who are cursed to live forever but age horribly. Sarah is soon drawn into Miriam’s life and becomes bewitched by the alluring woman. And Miriam is now looking for a new lover and sees the perfect partner in Sarah. So on one of the their meetings, the seductive Miriam seduces Sarah and binds her to her by feeding on her blood. Sarah, who was unaware of this act, begins to develop worrying symptoms and begins to crave blood, leading to a gruesome, blood-soaked showdown with the imperious Miriam.
I’ll begin by going through the things that I took issue with and could have been improved on first. While The Hunger does have some thematic value, I always felt that the story and themes could have been pushed a little further than the finished results. The theme of immortality and the search for youth is an interesting one, but it gets swallowed up by the visuals and doesn’t really stand a chance. The pace of this movie can be really slow as a snail and meandering when it should have been a bit quicker. I understand going for a slow burn, but this really takes it a bit too far. The ending of the film also feels more than a little forced and undoes some of the intrigue that the film has built up but can’t sustain. In conclusion to the negatives, The Hunger just has that feeling of being hollow and not really reaching much of a worthy conclusion.
It must be said on the positives that The Hunger heralded the rise of Tony Scott as a stylish director with a keen eye. Everything in The Hunger is photographed with a certain gloss, that ties in with the setting of 80’s glamour and decadence. He masterfully inter cuts scenes to create visual symmetry and atmosphere. From rippling curtains, misty lenses and quick cutting, The Hunger is in the category of films that have a stunning impact on the eyes. I must day that the effects still stand up today, particularly when John begins to rapidly age. Scott does manage to tap into some of the themes in the story and certainly brings a darkly perverse and erotic core to it. I was similarly impressed by the way he updated vampire lore, instead of having the same old types of vampires we have seen a thousand times. The vampires here mingle into society, don’t seem to have an aversion to sunlight, have no fangs that we see and instead of biting the necks of victims they use a small knife to slit the throat and then proceed to feed. A perfect example of this is the striking opening scenes in which Miriam and John cruise around a dark nightclub and take home two unwitting victims to seduce and then feed their need. The style, music and visuals all fit together to give this opening scene a hell of an impact. Also worth mentioning is the seduction scene between Miriam and Sarah, as slow motion sensuality and a more sinister undertone perfectly mix to exotic effect, accompanied by the strains of opera. The unusual music score has a ghostly but strangely romantic twist to it and it makes for a chilling listen.
Catherine Deneuve is at the height of her icy and aloof powers here portraying the eternally beautiful Miriam, who is fond of company due to living for so long. There are glimmers of sadness that Deneuve brings out in subtle ways, but she’s most impressive when being alluring and poised, a vampire femme fatale whose kiss and appearance alone brings a hypnotic impact to those around her, in particular Sarah. David Bowie elicits a whole lot of sympathy as the aging John, who comes to see that he’s been spun a lie about how long he will remain youthful. The scene when he ages alarmingly fast is all the more sad for Bowie’s moving delivery of this betrayed man. Susan Sarandon is full of sensuality and curiosity as she becomes the latest victim of Miriam’s affections. Sarandon is also adept at displaying the fear that Sarah goes through as her body changes due to her sexual encounter with the icy Miriam.
So while the atmosphere and gloss of The Hunger is intoxicating, this doesn’t add up to the most riveting movie out there and it emerges as one that needed some other spark to ignite some form of interest.