The Hunger (1983)
Directed by Tony Scott
Based on the novel The Hunger by Whitley Strieber
Screenplay by Ivan Davis, Michael Thomas
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Dan Hedaya
Miriam (Deneuve) has lived for thousands of years on the blood of innocents. She’s surrounded herself with lovers that she can keep from aging as long as she desires. When she begins looking for a replacement for John (Bowie) she sets her sights on Sarah Roberts (Sarandon).
This 1983 erotic horror film comes from the 1981 novel The Hunger by Whitley Strieber (Wolfen). The adaptation was done by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas (Ladyhawke). Tony Scott (Top Gun) made his feature debut as a director on this one. The cast includes a small and talented group of people including Catherine Deneuve (Indochine), David Bowie (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence), Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Cliff De Young (Wild), and Dan Hedaya (Blood Simple).
This story is a mildly suspenseful but deeply erotic look at the world of vampires. The story builds early on a number of mysterious interactions and a number of seemingly unconnected events. As the plot begins to unveil itself, the story begins to open on the unique relationships between the main characters. The writing does a nice job incorporating the current events with the mysterious and mystical past of Miriam. Unfortunately the twists in this film lead to an unimpressive climax that essentially undoes all of the hard work put into the first two acts of the film. A studio rewrite took away what should’ve been a great payoff. Susan Sarandon would later state her observations about the final product, “Nobody knew what was going on, and I thought that was a shame.” Overall, this one is a unique take on a familiar subject that has nice moments but doesn’t finish as strong as it started.
The acting in this film is pretty good. David Bowie is a great choice for his role as John. Not only does he have great chemistry with Deneuve, but he also holds his own in a number of more solitary scenes. He’s also able to adapt his performance throughout the dramatic changes in the role that included a number of major changes in appearance.Susan Sarandon is another nice choice for this one. Her chemistry with De Young and Deneuve really bring out some of the best conflict in the movie. De Young and Hedaya both do nice work with their smaller roles, and make the most of the material.
Catherine Deneuve is the real star of this film. Her performance is provocative and sensual, but also very chilling. This combination comes from her ability to bring out the true essence of the story and her character. This impersonal nature really adds to the questions brought up by the story. She also does a great job with a number of very physical moments throughout the film. Overall, this is a nicely acted movie that does everything possible with the weaker writing.
One if the major highlights of this film is the transformations brought out by the work of Dick Smith (Amadeus). The legendary makeup artist teamed up with Carl Fullerton (The Silence of the Lambs) to transform some of the characters throughout the movie with great skill. This work is worth watching this film for. Another nice aspect of this film comes with a handful of moments where the cinematography really shines. Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt (The Help) did nice work, especially in the early parts of the movie. Unfortunately the visuals suffer late in the film due to the poorly written ending.
This movie has some interesting moments throughout, and fans of similar stories should enjoy it. I would also recommend this one to fans of any of the stars. This is a movie that feels incomplete, so the range of people who will truly enjoy it might be more narrow. If you’re looking for something with a clear 1980s flair, this is one for you. I give this one 2.7 out of 5 stars.