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SXSW Movie Review: blind ambition leads to demonic possession in 'Starry Eyes'

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Starry Eyes

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A naive and ambitious young starlet's pursuit of Hollywood stardom leads to demonic possession with deadly consequences in director Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch's new horror movie "Starry Eyes" which premiered last night at SXSW in the Midnighters section.

Alex Essoe shines in the lead role as Sarah Walker, a young actress who sacrifices her mind, body and soul in a paranoia-fueled effort to break into the Hollywood spotlight.

Sarah lives with a communal group of starving filmmakers and thespian friends, while working at a fast-food joint to pay the bills as she strives toward her big break at audition after audition.

But a chance audition and toilet stall freakout results in Sarah's selection to meet The Producer (Louis Dezseran), a chillingly creepy L. Ron Hubbard-esque founder of a well-known Hollywood production company.

Sarah's encounter with The Producer soon leads to a frighteningly disgusting transformation that will change her whole life.

With "Starry Eyes," the duo of Widmyer and Kölsch blend up traditional horror genre elements, including demonic possession and bodily transformation, with suspense thriller tropes, while mixing in some 1970s Grindhouse movie moments involving babes in bikinis at the pool and working at a Hooters-esque fast-food joint.

The filmmakers also pour on the requisite blood and gore to satisfy most horror fans while spinning their morality tale about blind ambition in Hollywood.

Suffice to say, the movie's enduring message can most eloquently be summed up in a scene during which Sarah bashes one of her actress friend's face in with a dumbell.

Adding to "Starry Eyes" campy feel is veteran actor Pat Healy ("Compliance") as the goofy owner of the aforementioned greasy fast-food knockoff version of "Hooters," who gives Sarah a chance at maintaining stability and financial support in her life.

Rounding out a solid ensemble cast are Amanda Fuller, Fabianne Therese, Noah Segan, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, with Marc Senter, and Maria Olsen (as a suitably creepy casting director and her assistant).

The take away from "Starry Eyes" is shockingly simple: if your a struggling actress in Hollywood, maybe you should think twice before quitting your job as a waitress to take that next big audition for a producer.

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