Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hunger (1983)

Title: The Hunger (1983)

Director: Tony Scott

Cast: Susan Sarandon, David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve,


The Hunger is a film about the fear of getting old, that feeling that you get when you feel youth is slowly slipping from you and you feel the aches and pains of old age slowly creeping into your life. On this film, we have David Bowie playing a vampire called John Blaylock. Many hundreds of years ago, John fell in love with Miriam Blaylock a vampire who is many thousands of years old. Miriam is a natural vampire while John used to be human and was turned by Miriam. As a result, John doesn’t live forever like Miriam does; his life is simply elongated a few hundred years, but not forever.

Two young vampires clubbing, searching for their next victim

This is the main conundrum in John’s life. He sees liver spots appearing on his skin, his hair is starting to fall off, and finally, wrinkles are starting to show up! Old age is catching up with him and its catching up fast! The interesting part about Johns aging is that it doesnt happen at a normal rate. He is a young man now, and two hours later, he is a wrinkled and old! So John decides to look for the help of a scientist named Sarah Roberts. Sarah specializes in studying the aging process and is in fact performing experiments to try and reverse the aging process on patients who suffer from a decease which makes them age at a faster rate than the rest of us.

Youth and sensuality go hand in hand, but how long will it last?

The interesting thing about The Hunger is that it’s a story that speaks about two themes at the same time. The entire film focuses on the horrors of aging, of that time in your life when you have to simply admit to yourself that you are no longer a strapping young lad or sass. You notice how people are starting to call you “sir” and “mam” and all that. Kids don’t know what bands or movies you are referring to, and finally, when it comes to sex, well, their will come a time when the magic is gone. Little things like that. But on the other hand, the film also talks about relationships, and when love and passion is suddenly sucked out of them. You see, Miriam realizes that John is starting to decay, so her sexual passion for him is disappearing. It’s a film that emphasizes how sexual desire is something for the young, and exclusively for them. There comes a time when you simply have to relinquish your sexual powers and focus your energies on something else.

It speaks about a person’s reluctance to let go of their youth, of their sensuality. There is one really heartbreaking scene in which John has become an old man and Miriam is holding him in her arms. Miriam is young as ever, because you know, vampires don’t age as long as they feed. But in that scene, John asks Miriam to kiss him as she did when he was a young man. She tries, but she simply can’t anymore. That lust for him is gone, he is now an old man knocking on deaths door. Miriam decides to focus her erotic desires on Susan Sarandon, who plays Sarah, the scientist who studies aging. So suddenly, the film turns into a lesbian vampire film. This movie can be mentioned along side similar films like Vampire Lesbos (1971), The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Vampyres (1974). Films about female vampires falling in love with their female victims. This is exactly what happens in this movie. So suddenly, the film turns into a love triangle because John doesn’t want to let go of Miriam, but Miriam only cares about her new female flame. But what makes this film different from the lesbian vampire movies I just mentioned is that it’s classier, more stylish. It’s not sleazy in the least.

Thematically, The Hunger is similar to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) because it asks the question: why must we die? It’s the kind of film that asks whoever is responsible for our short life span: why does it have to be that way? On this film, John is constantly reminding Miriam: “You said forever and ever” which kind of reminded me of the replicants plea in Blade Runner when they ask their creator to extend their life span. In that film, the leader of the Replicants puts it very eloquently: “I want more life fucker!”. It’s the kind of film that makes you think about how precious life is and how we should enjoy it while we have it, the only thing is that on The Hunger, the film reminds us to have as much sex as you can while you can still have it because it’s not going to last forever!

Miriam's vampiric origins go as far back as Egyptian times!

The film plays a lot with vampire lore, rules aren’t followed to a T. This is not a film about vampires dying in the sunlight, or running from crosses. Nope, this is a film about vampires running away from old age. The ending can be a bit confusing if you are not paying attention, but the answers are all there if you ask me. This is a very stylish vampire film, the cinematography is top notch, the color palette, bleak, dark and lifeless. Perfect for a vampire film. And the icing on the cake for me with this film is its excellent cast. We have David Bowie in one of his finest film roles, Catherine Deneuve plays Miriam the ageless vampire. Some of you might remember Deneuve from Roman Polanski’s psychological horror film Repulsion (1965), an excellent film I urge all you guys and gals out there to check out at some point. Finally, we get Susan Sarandon as Miriam’s new love interest. The lesbian scenes are quite graphic, so you’ve been warned. This is an excellent vampire film, its only drawback in my book is that sometimes it lingers when it shouldn’t. Its pacing is what brings it down a bit for me. But I guess if you are in the mood for a deliberately slower paced film, a moodier piece that focuses on style, then you should be just fine.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The HungerThe Hunger


Johnny Thunder said...

Another really wonderful review. I haven't seen this flick in ages. Makes me definitely want to revisit it!

Franco Macabro said...

I had the pleasure of re-watching it this past weekend, I enjoyed its sultry, gothic like mood.

Thanks for commenting Johnny!

Fred [The Wolf] said...

I'm on the same boat as Johnny. It's been YEARS since I've seen this film as well. But I do remember liking it quite a bit. Your review is great for this one. I definitely want to watch it again now.

Unknown said...

hard to believe Tony Scott directed this film when you look at how his style has changed over the years. A film like DOMINO doesn't look ANYTHING like THE HUNGER. I do like the mood and atmosphere of this film. It was also my intro to Bahaus and that wonderful signature song of theirs, "Bela Lugosi's Dead." Great track and so appropriate for the film.

Excellent review! Man, I haven't thought about this film for ages.

Franco Macabro said...

Bela Lugosi's Dead plays through out the opening credits and it sets the mood for the rest of this dark film.

I agree, this looks nothing like current Tony Scott films which seem to be over exposed, and the colors seem to blare at the screen.

I believe that since this was his first film, that Tony was imitating his own brothers films, I noticed this because at times The Hunger looks a lot like Blade Runner. Lots of shadows and streaks of light. Thematically speaking, Tony Scott's The Hunger also echoes Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, so theres more than one similarity tying both films.

Thanks for commenting J.D.!

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

I agree with you that The Hunger is a film that uses vampirism as an allegory for the way humans deal with aging and death. However, a large portion of the film is also about Miriam’s changing relationship with the aging John and her gradual need for a new relationship with Sarah (which, given the physical beauty of the two actresses, I found oddly unerotic,). The Hunger definitely does not work for me as a vampire film or a horror film, because the focus is neither on the supernatural aspects of vampirism (other than immortality/prolonged life) or creating an atmosphere of fear (other than some uneasiness seeing the rapid aging of John). I haven’t seen The Hunger in over fifteen years, but it was a powerful enough film to stand out in my memory, so I guess I liked it for what it was: an allegorical gothic fantasy.

Sadako said...

Great review. I love me a good vampire flick and this one sounds great.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Fritz, I totally agree with you, though the movie does start out with the vampires searching out their victimes in a night club, picking them out and feeding on them by slitting their throats...all while we also see a Monkey going insane ripping another test monkeys throat clean out.

The ending I think is what qualifies it the most as a "horror" movie. SPOILERS AHEAD, dont read if you havent seen the movie: Miriam gets attacked by her dead lovers who come out of their tombs, rotting, decayed. All the while Miriam is dying, turning into a corpse because she drank Sarahs blood.

So it does have its horror elements. They are just toned down. Its just done in a classier way somehow, the cinematography on this one is very elegant. I mean even the music is classy, with the exception of the opening Bauhaus song, the rest of the films music is made up of a classical score, which fit perfectly if you ask me.

Franco Macabro said...

@Sadako: Just remember that its a vampire movie that has lots of drama to it, and a great story. Its main concern is not special effects (though it has those) or gore (though it has some too). Hope you like it!


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