Sarah (Alexandra Essoe) works as a waitress by day, while aspiring to make it as an actress on evenings. We see from the start though that she's prone to falling apart in auditions.

It doesn't help that she has friends like Erin (Fabianne Therese), a bitch who undermines Sarah's attempts at a career in performance at every turn. When Sarah receives notification on her 'phone, for example, that she's bagged an audition for a role in a new horror film, all Erin can do is scoff at the production's working title: "The Silver Scream". At least best pal Tracy (Amanda Fuller) appears to be more sincere.

Undeterred, Sarah attends the audition and gives what she feels is good audition. However, it doesn't seem that way for the inexpressive casting director (Maria Olsen) and her catty assistant (Marc Senter).

Disappointed by their non-plussed reactions, Sarah takes herself off to the nearest toilet and takes a tantrum in one of the traps. This happens to be witnessed by the casting director, who asks her to return to the audition room and repeat the fit publicly. Although visibly uncomfortable in doing so, Sarah obliges ... and shortly afterwards receives that all important callback.

Returning for her second audition, Sarah is shocked to discover the casting director now wants her to strip before the camera. She does as they request after initial hesitation, and is later elated to hear she's won a private audience with the film's producer (Louis Dezseran) at his Hollywood home. She's already ditched her waitress job by this point.

Arriving at the producer's house - he resembles Howard Vernon in a curious way - he's quick to inform her that "this is a great opportunity for a young actress". She responds by assuring that she will do "anything" to secure the role. "THIS is the audition" he purrs as he slides his hand up between her legs, the casting director watching impassively in the background. Sarah's initial reaction is to flee.

But when she can't get her waitress job back and her slacker friends - including Ginko (Nick Simmons, son of Kiss's Gene) - ridicule her, she ends up going back for more...

Among the companies who co-produced STARRY EYES are DVD distributors Dark Sky Films, so you'd like to think that the team who've previously released the likes of THE MANSON FAMILY, SPIDER BABY and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE domestically in America would be "safe hands".

Sure enough, STARRY EYES is a solid proposition. Though its message of Hollywood being the root of all evil is clich�d and, coming from a low budget horror film, a little cynical, there's also a subtle swipe being had at today's generation of get-famous-quick reality stars and the perils of blind ambition. In this latter respect, at least, the film can claim a superficial affinity with Andreas Marschall's excellent MASKS. Tellingly, too, there is an early line from the casting director which correlates the acting profession with the process of transformation: whether it be for the purpose of immersing oneself into a role, or mutating into something completely different to what you starting off as.

Co-writers/co-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer handle the balance of wry satirical commentary and intriguing Faustian drama well, finding black humour and menacing premonition in most scenes even when there is deeper subtext afoot. As such, the film works perfectly well on face value ... but has that delicious added treat of being capable of offering so much more for those willing to seek it out.

Essoe is a huge asset to the film. She is to STARRY EYES what Angela Bettis was to MAY and Jocelin Donahue was to THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL: a relatively unknown actress who literally lights up every scene she's in. Which is fortunate, as she's in virtually every shot. She's likeable, believable, and vulnerable without ever seeming pathetic - her casting is pretty much perfect.

All in all, STARRY EYES is a good modern take on what a person will do to get what they want, and works ably as a parable for selling your soul. It benefits from quality performances, a great score by Jonathan Snipes and some latter set-piece scenes that get almost too barmy for words.

STARRY EYES is presented uncut and in its original 2.40:1 ratio. Picture quality is a tad soft for such a modern film and the colours seem somewhat muted throughout. I'm assuming this is how the film's supposed to look.

English audio is provided in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both tender reliable, evenly balanced propositions. Predictably, the latter carries the edge - the sound design comes across as being especially meaty on this mix, while canny channelling ensures consistency between dialogue, music and other jolting sounds.

Metrodome's DVD opens to an animated main menu page which makes good use of the film's stirring retro score.

From there, a static scene selection menu proffers access to the film via 12 chapters.

Extra features commence with an audio commentary track from Kolsch, Widmyer and producer Travis Stevens. They gel well, resulting in this being an affable, fluent affair which offers good insight into the production in a fairly consistent, scene-specific manner. Praise is predictably lauded on Essoe, while musing on horror trappings and tales of low budget filmmaking techniques also provide valid food for thought.

Next we have audition footage of Essoe testing for what became her role. I always find this type of thing quite embarrassing to sit through - an actor "getting into character", without the aid of make-up, set design or music - but, to her credit, the actress is highly impressive even when acting in a workshop environment. 13 minutes worth of this footage is stretching things somewhat though. Still, this being a Metrodome release, and considering their penchant these days for releasing barebones discs, we should be grateful it's here in the first place...

11 minutes of deleted scenes (ten in total) are interesting but don't include anything that makes you think "why the Hell did they remove THAT?"

A 2-minute featurette focusing on how Snipes worked, setting his score to individual scenes in the film, is fascinating - but too brief to be of any true substance.

The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for THE BORDERLANDS, DARK TOUCH and PAINLESS.

Curiously, there is no blu-ray release. If you want to own STARRY EYES in HD, you'll have to seek out the US disc at present - but be aware that it's locked to Region A. As well as the above bonus material, the blu-ray also contains a 9-minute behind-the-scenes gallery and the film's original trailer.

STARRY EYES makes for a great night's entertainment. It's given fairly solid treatment by Metrodome here, although there is a sense that they don't realise what a gem they've got on their hands. Frustratingly, they did the same with the frankly brilliant BIG BAD WOLVES.

Well worth a look.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Metrodome Distribution
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review