Review: The Hunger (1983)

The Hunger (1983)
Director:  Tony Scott
Writers:  Whitley Strieber (novel), Ivan Davis (screenplay)
Stars:  Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon

This movie had me at Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie play a pair of vampires.  It's also directed by the late, often great Tony Scott, who always knew how to make a good popcorn flick.  The Hunger is a surprisingly entertaining vampire movie, given it's probably the most un-vampire like vampire movie in existence.  It's as though it's in a state of genre denial, and for some may come off more an erotic thriller than horror film, but the final product delivers enough blood and gothic imagery to whet the appetite of any horror fan.

Deneuve plays Miriam Blaylock, a gorgeous ancient vampire who every 300 years or so must acquire a new immortal lover of her choosing.  At times it's gory and disturbing, especially the turning point in the film when Miriam’s current lover John, played by Bowie, takes the life of a young child, the child Miriam plans on having as her next partner in crime. It's an unsettling moment with significant repercussions, and this is when the plot really thickens, as Martian must scramble for a replacement.  The big finale, when the mummified corpses of Miriam’s past lovers rise from their caverns, is a genuinely frightening sequence, if not a bit too reminiscent of the Poltergeist finale a year earlier.  But this climactic moment is the most visually stunning of the film and really shows off the amazing special effects work, which look better in '83 than most stuff nowadays.  

The Hunger was not initially well received but has since found its audience and over the years developed somewhat of a cult following.  It's easy to see why, based on the credits alone: Deneuve and Bowie are icons in their own right, Sarandon offers an early and quite edgy (and rather nude) performance, and it’s Tony Scott’s first major work and one of his only horror films.  There is a classiness to The Hunger you don’t find in many other horror films and its unique atmosphere is unlike any vampire story I’ve ever seen.

Peter DiGiovanni


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