AUGUST 16, 2008
Until recently, I was always more of a Tony fan than Ridley, Scottly speaking. His last few movies are damn near unwatchable (Domino, Déjà Vu, and even Man On Fire at times), but his output in the late 80s and most of the 90s is solid excess, the type of thing I love. Except for the misstep known as The Fan (with its ridiculous monsoon baseball game), his hit streak is unparalleled – Beverly Hills Cop 2, Revenge, Days Of Thunder, Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State... all good/great movies. So long story short – I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to The Hunger, which is his first film (always an interesting viewing for a director you admire) and a horror movie. With lesbian sex to boot.
I was pretty much sold on this one right from the start. In addition to a hilariously cheesy rock performance by Bauhaus and a pair of gory kills, the credits were minimal, something much appreciated. I am all for giving credit where its due, but really, do you need to know who the costume designer or casting people were right from the start? No. All you need to know is the stars, the director, the writer, the makeup artist or artists (if it’s a genre film), and the producer(s). Everything else can wait until the end. Whoever did the credits on this obviously felt the same way, so that is pretty much all they offer. We want to see a movie, and not have shots obscured by telling us information that is going to be repeated at the end anyway.
I also like how the credit for Dick Smith and Carl Fullerton’s makeup work is referred to as “Illusions”. Because that’s essentially what it is – an incredible illusion. Smith is synonymous with old age makeup, much like Rick Baker is with apes, and his work here is among his all time best. In the film’s best scene, we watch David Bowie, patiently and sadly waiting for Susan Sarandon’s character to come talk to him. As he waits, he ages rapidly, to the point where there’s no way anyone would even be able to know it was David Bowie. Yet, the makeup is incredibly believable.
Speaking of the cast, there are a lot of younger faces here. Dan Hedaya is like 4th billed for his 3 minutes of screen time, playing a detective, and Willem Dafoe pops up as a street punk. But the most perversely entertaining bit of casting is Cliff De Young as Sarandon’s lover. DeYoung is probably best known as playing Brad Majors in the Rocky Horror sequel, so to see fake Brad with real Janet is kind of funny. Bowie sadly checks out about halfway through the film, but it's one of his best performances, and the rare occasion where he plays a more subtle character.
Unfortunately, his exit gives the movie a rather odd structure. He’s pretty much front and center for the first half, and then suddenly its all about Sarandon. It’s like the inverse of Psycho or whatever, but not as effective. His character was more interesting than Catherine Deneuve’s, so I wish he was in it more. Of course, had her character died halfway through instead, we would be spared the lesbian sex scene, so I guess it evens out (not that it’s the all time best scene of its type, but it’s just entertaining to see a classy lady like Sarandon making out with a chick and biting her arm and what not).
There’s also a scene where a monkey freaks out and kills another monkey, so there’s something. And Deneuve’s death sequence is among the longest I have ever seen in a film; it makes Paul Reubens’ death in the Buffy movie look restrained.
The only extra on the disc is a rather dull commentary by Scott and Sarandon. They are recorded separately, and neither of them really comment on what we are seeing, instead focusing on more general things. There are also frequent gaps (Sarandon disappears for like a half hour straight), and Scott occasionally just narrates. Entirely skippable.
Like Cronos or the recent Let The Right One In, The Hunger is one of those vampire movies that eschews most of the typical lore (these vampires have a reflection, which pays off quite nicely in a quick little jump scare early on) and isn’t about big fangs and setpieces. It’s a mood piece, very heavy on character and dialogue, and hardly the spectacle one would expect from Tony Scott if they were familiar with his recent work (though it DOES have some of his trademarks – lots of blue tinted shots, smoke and/or sunglasses in just about every shot, etc).
What say you?