Ahh, vampirism. That horrific act of drinking another person’s blood to grant yourself eternal life which Hollywood has been obsessed with since its inception. Nosferatu, Dracula and even Shadow of the Vampire. The title characters of all those films are usually the same. The vampire has long fangs. He bites his victims on the neck, leaving two marks. He can’t go outside during the daytime. He can transform himself into a bat if necessary, as if he were a Noctobot. Strangely, Tony Scott’s 1983 vampire film, The Hunger possesses almost none of these qualities.
Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) is a centuries old vampire, who must prey on the blood of humans to keep her immortality. She promises the same shot of living forever to her lovers in exchange for their blood. The catch, unbeknownst to them, is that although they live forever, their youthful appearance only lasts for so long. Once that time is up, they age faster than Robin Williams in Jack.
Miriam’s current lover is John (David Bowie). He’s content with his ability to engorge himself on the flesh of hot young things, until it’s apparent his time has come and his youthfulness wears off. Although his appearance was the product of an otherworldly gift (curse?), he decides to seek out a human doctor, Dr. Roberts (Susan Sarandon), who specializes in cases of rapid aging. Initially, she dismisses his claim as a hoax, but offers her assistance after offending him.
Dr. Roberts shows up at the Blaylock’s residence after it’s too late for John. Miriam tells her he had fled overseas, but invites Dr. Roberts inside anyway. Miriam turns up her charm toward Dr. Roberts and 25 plus years prior to Lesbian Vampire Killers, effectively seduces her. Dr. Roberts, now inflicted with the desire to suck the blood the blood of others, is none too pleased. She has to figure out a way to kill the immortal Miriam and release herself from the acquired curse.
As previously mentioned, aside from sucking blood, none of the typical vampiric traits pop-up in the film. Nobody sports any fangs, no bats make an appearance and although things are largely devoid of sun, the characters still enter the daylight. With it’s shunning of normal vampire clichés, The Hunger most closely resembles Alan Ball’s HBO series, the campy/realistic “True Blood.” It owes almost nothing to the vampire films which preceded it, which is a refreshing take on a long-in-the-blood-sucking-tooth genre.
After directing a TV episode and a couple of shorter films, Tony Scott graduated to directing features with this film. Strangely, like the film to its predecessors, the visual style bears little resemblance to the rest of Scott’s oeuvre, especially that of his next film, Top Gun. In fact, The Hunger is atrociously slow. It’s no wonder Scott would later usher in the ADD-style quick-cutting technique to adhere to the MTV generation.
Perhaps the film looks slightly larger under Scott’s tutelage than it would under someone else’s watchful eye, but there’s very little hinting toward his future career. The green tint his films have been bathed in for the past several years has no presence here. If anything, the film leans toward an amber hue. There are also a lot of flowing curtains which make it look like a music video from the era. In fact, the look of the film reminds me of the music video Jim Carrey is in at the beginning of the Dirty Harry film, The Dead Pool. The music and the whole ambience of that video seem to be directly transported from The Hunger. It’s a film for the goth chic, over a decade before The Crow.
Fans of Scott will undoubtedly feel amiss taking a gander at this film. The Jerry Bruckheimer-fueled blockbusters of Scott’s future show no traces here and the film itself provides little of interest aside from the vampire film with nary a cliché. Regardless of your opinion on Scott’s filmmaking nowadays, it’s impossible to argue that he’s improved his directorial style immensely, as well as developing a look and feel that’s uniquely his. The Hunger is as much an oddity in Scott’s resume as its leading man.
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