“Nothing human lives forever”
Prologue: A New Mood for Horror
This review is unequivocally dedicated to the recent tragic and sad passing of the late Tony Scott 1944 – 2012. The review is also a specific noting of a changing of the guard in the reinventing and stylising of horror cinema for a new age. This review is also a critical rebuke of film critics of the time with no sense of vision or style whatsoever. The Hunger, 1983 is a film that during the time of release showed a dramatic, almost – film noir, slower paced horror film viewing experience, a movie that immediately caught both my personal attention and imagination when finally viewing it for the first time on its eventual video release many distant decades ago now. Despite what many of my friends found as a long winded and arduous, (BORING!) film, for me on a personal level it actually became a pleasant jolt to the system and encompassed a new edginess in genre film-making that fitted perfectly with what this then young adult had began craving as he searched for some kind of genre specific viewing alternative to the usual VHS carousel of recycled horror fair that was being churned out at the time. It was a very overburdened home entertainment marketplace by this time, a time in which most movies available often offered the same old repetitive tedium which at best was ‘run of the mill’ fair but more oftly were genuinely poor excuses for horror cinema of which many of the titles were now fortunately/unfortunately finally seeing the light of day to a mainstream video viewing audience who were being provided much of said crap by film distributors trying to make quick financial gain often with the release of largely contemptible trite, some of which I have to admit I genuinely loved (still do in fact) but much more of which I truly hated and please guys let us not fool ourselves into thinking that everything controversial, outrageous or gore laden during that period which was available in this horror, Sci-fi or fantasy nirvana was good or interesting entertainment because the truth was a large amount of it was simply disguising a marketing rip off and offering only unadulterated shite, that simple folks! The Hunger came at a time when we were witnessing great change as both our choices and horror tastes began to alter slightly as were the movie now being developed and released during the back end of the 1970’s and in the opening salvo of the 1980’s.
What Tony Scott did with the release of The Hunger was offer a growing and more appreciative, receptive audience that bothered to indulge or wanted to take the journey with shall we suggest a more sophisticated horror cinematic palette (is that snobbery?) probably but I don’t care! It was not just me was it? but was it not factual that many genre fans by this time had also started noting they too had now become largely immunised to the effects of bloody dipped largely overinflated exploitative horror entertainment, so with this sudden notion now festering was there not the onset of a boredom factor toward the more deliberately unsavoury genre video releases of the time setting in, therefore did it not suggest that something had to give dramatically. The fact was we were now living in a time were the likes of Mary (fucking) Whitehouse and her autocracy, Christian groups the likes of ‘The Festival of Light’ were now in bloom with their religious applications and political fervency and a gaining support of a gutter press obsessing over an ill informed and ill advised cause. So with an uncertain future just around the corner for much of what had gone previous and noting that the right wing government of the day wanted to metaphorically “burn the witch” known as horror video entertainment, for those of us savvy enough to understand change was afoot, we had also already begun to see the possible early signs and probable ramifications of what was about to happen. Many of us knew though sad as the case may be, that it was not a matter of what our future viewing experience would soon entail but put in a clearer perspective and if truth be told the whole horror genre in particular definitely needed a major overhaul, a re-analysing anyway. The looming concept of entering a new era of filmmaking needed to exist in order to move the genre forward which also included getting the lunatic fundamentalist off the back of genre moviemakers and fans alike by creating a more mainstream form of acceptability in genre entertainment terms which was fine, especially with those of us who now grew a bit tiresome of many things that had most definitely become wrong with certain aspects of the sudden influx of available horror cinema. We were in essence entering a largely greater age of horror movie entertainment, already on the cusp of new and glorious developments in special effect laden genre movies (not CGI) that now provided a new shock and awe value which in return also meant we would be offered films with greater investment, reinvention and greater consideration toward the new genre movement which also gave many of the films being produced a new visual appeal by showing us things never before seen in the genre. Filmmakers could literally create the spectacle of nightmare scenarios with much more punch, vigour and visionary ease. Storylines were now being plumped up with far superior direction, better production values and more considered scriptwriting, also more filmmakers now wanted to add big doses of decent casting with actors that could genuinely do a good turn in front of the camera and perform with a more convincing and professional approach. Let us also not forget this included the more independent filmmakers too. Horror was growing up fast and moving at a pace and for a short time at least for the better it seemed. Horror it seemed had suddenly found new ideas and had also reshaped the more traditional stories for a retelling that could now genuinely leave its audience immersed in a newly placed showmanship and spectacle once again, rather than leave its audience underwhelmed by what we had come to view as normality. Horror fans could once more engage the brain by being provided with a stimulating and taxing character driven and superior visual horror defining cinematic experience. Tony Scott’s début feature fits in with this new mood of change and is also a far cry from what he would go on to produce later on in his career. as he became world renowned for his ‘action’ movie genre work. Not at any time in future retrospect of Tony Scott’s career should we forget this film which was sadly his only delve into the horror genre and what an extraordinary effort it is. This must also beggar the question that must be asked, why he did not make more genre specific movies? Whatever the likely explanation for his lack of horror movie absence thereafter (because he was derided by film critics for his horror effort?) I suppose we must be grateful that when he directed this 1983 classic and my own personal favourite of all his subsequent work, True Romance, 1993. Man on Fire, 2004 and Deja Vu, 2006 being his other stand-out features. The Hunger left us with a beautiful and haunting melancholic filmic experience which also proved to the general public that vampire films could be represented from a totally different social perspective, be viewed with a more passionate and unique cinematic overview with the subject matter available, which in this case included a script that offered an actual story of love and betrayal in extremities. (Also see Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, 1987 for a vampire film of changed perceptions. We will also include the more recent Tomas Alfredson’s stunner, Let The Right One In, 2008). The Hunger on a personal note seems to hint unwittingly or otherwise may I suggest perhaps even deliberately harp back to a more theatrical film making period in spirit and reminiscence of such classics like Harry Kümel’s amazing Daughters of Darkness, 1971 or the earlier masterful effort which is, Roger Vadim’s, Blood and Roses, 1960. The Hunger is a re-energised breath of fresh air of a bygone era of sentimentality which is riskily thrown into a period of filmmaking which was in the throes of social controversy in a genre that had become tainted and stale. The Hunger takes a slow burn approach to its violent visual content yet still manages to offer you more than you think for what is considered a restrained modern classic of its time and in parts of its outlay, it is still genuinely disturbing (child violence?) and still ultimately provides the bloody violence and horror that one would come to expect from a more modern genre piece though it never at anytime displays plain overkill as some of Tony Scott’s subsequent more uncompromising violent work that undoubtedly became his famous latter years trademark signature. On this occasion Tony Scott shows a real restraint and passion that drives The Hunger toward a new cinematic splendour of crisp visual beauty which many of the stupid critics of the time called “arty, esoteric and self indulgent”, a commentary Scott himself has openly admitted was the case in point. This horror film was change, a change the critics of this period in time had complained about wanting yet when it finally arrived it still seemed to pass many of them by, with many of them foolishly unable to comprehend with their blinkered eyes that films like The Hunger were already changing audience perceptions of filmmaking for a viewing public immersed in an ever changing climate, in particular with regard to the horror genre as a whole entertainment concept. Just look at the ‘mainstream’ ground breaking approach of the ‘new’ pioneers of movies such as Don Coscarelli’s amazing Phantasm, 1979. Dario Argento’s Inferno, 1980. Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, 1980. Joe Dante’s often underrated, The Howling, 1981. John Landis’s, An American Werewolf in London, 1981. The absolutely stunning spectacle of John Carpenter’s The Thing, 1982. David Cronenberg’s bizarre and twisted but wonderful Videodrome, 1983. All the directors with the exception of Don Coscarelli I have legitimately highlighted here because not only did these men change many traditional perceptions of how to ‘correctly’ redefine horror for a battle weary generation of genre fans by smashing down many old impeding barriers that had previously been restraining inventive variables but much of what had passed off in horrors past glory lay in the fact that it was many of the above directors that had also created what had been much of the new guard that began their noted rise from the ashes of the old regime, many themselves in their earlier filmmaking careers now having to quickly progress and move on. We must also briefly give a nod here to one Sam Raimi for his independent flick, The Evil Dead, 1981 which for T.C.M.R. was one of the most important crossover points that encompassed the whole genre change and also allowed Raimi’s filmmaking aspirations and personal influences between the old and new style of the time to offer up horror fans everything wonderful about horror in its many gory and humourous hints of very dark comedy slapstick and good old fashioned dollops of over the top horror movie formulations. It was Rami’s vision of visceral spectacle and his standard bearing original frenetic horror roller coasting that would become the new inviting pinnacle when it came to challenging society’s ‘witch burners’ of the time. This film would not go quietly nor be a scapegoat for those that opposed horror films both past and future! May I also point out here that I personally still consider the 1970’s the greatest period of ground-breaking movies ever and not just films in my favourite genre but all movies that encapsulated that wonderful cinematic decade.
Tony Scott up until this point had only been involved in the advertisement world so the risk for the producers was significant. Whether Richard shepherd had looked upon the fact that Ridley, Tony Scott’s by this time iconic film director brother had also taken the exact same journey and route toward his stratospheric climb to the top of the directors A-list on the success of Alien, 1979. This may have hinted at a slight opportunism of the ‘Scott’ name as a possible brand by the films backers. This may have been the deciding factor perhaps? but not until we first add a caveat regarding the very suggestion that this was the only reasoning behind Shepherd’s eventual decision to hire Tony Scott for this project, especially when considering this decision was made shortly after and despite the backdrop regarding Ridley Scott having just preceded over the then expensive box office flop – Blade Runner during its release in September of 1982. So again rumour mills should in respect, run silent before churning out unfounded conjecture. I also find this nonsense an affront in the simple fact that critics had made assumptions by stupidly concluding that what Shepherd had seen in Tony Scott was not a decision of independent thought or is that just a cop out and excuse for critics of the day wishing to show their might by placing individuals on a pedestal of expectation before ceremoniously kicking their quarry off it? In the long term both Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Blade Runner, now considered one of the greatest films ever to grace the screen and Tony Scott’s stunning horror movie risk have both gone on to be firm fan and cult favourites and more importantly for business and investment reasons successful financially over a much longer period of time – granted. The slow motion trickle effect and subsequent newly established video home entertainment (as was!) soon after the release of these films and latterly the more recent dvd, Blu-ray market explosion. The reaction from the general public toward these works of the Scott brothers has over time afforded them the critical acclaim as represented by a majority of genre fans who long before the foolish and often vindictive critics ever cottoned on. It is only decades later that reappraisal and more open minded critics have begun lording over these two cinematic experiences which would eventually become a much wider indicator of what people had wanted and not by what the unhelpful critics of the time who had some kind of agenda, (very personal on occasion) against Tony Scott and his début feature, their thoughts and decisions to castigate rather than look at the bigger and wider picture with a more positive overview was never considered by a narrow mindedness of an establishment that had become delusional, selfish and naive in mindset. Look opinions and criticism of what you like or dislike is important and a necessity and is what makes the right of individual film choice so wonderful but when that criticism spills over in to personal unfounded assault from people who used a clique obsessive mentality and negativity that went beyond their job description, then that for me is a step to far, especially by certain established, lazy critics who perhaps should go and do something else? Those with a new sense of viewing purpose and imagination (the general public) could watch in awe as these two filmmakers had spotted what the marketplace obviously now gladly wanted. How does it go, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”. Both films have now deservedly great cinematic status throughout the world, (Blade Runner in particular) over many generational decades since their initial release. Had Richard Shepherd been a long term visionary? Whatever the reasoning behind such decisions “thank goodness we had people who had hindsight, trust and faith in their own decision making”. For Tony Scott sadly, it would be another two and a half years before he worked again, as a result of the initial performance of The Hunger at the box office and the ferocity in which critics were quick to condemn perhaps? “Now what was the next project Tony Scott worked on called again? and did it actually do anything at the box office?” (Sarcasm me thinks and point made also). I also want it noted right now I dislike Top Gun (for reasons of personal taste only!) Please also note though I openly admit to being a fan of both the Scott brothers, I would also like to point out here and now, that they have also made some disappointing films between them. This review nods its head to the positive achievement of which The Hunger falls into the category of greatness. Okay glad to clear that up, now lets move on to the actual review shell we folks…(Many sighs of relief!)
The Hunger is loosely based on Whitley Strieber’s 1981 novel of the same name. The films screenplay itself was written and (heavily) rejigged by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas and allows Scott to use the slimmer storyline as compared to Strieber’s work in which to adapt its characters to be more movie structured and considered in what is a well paced filmic interpretation (apart from the silly ending?) We’ll get to that! The great thing about this film is that at no time is it ever rushed, again a pace not familiar with many of the genre movies of the time nor indeed of Tony Scott’s subsequent fast paced work that followed. Though this project was initially going to be under the construct of director Alan Parker (seriously rumoured?) It was eventually offered to Tony Scott by the films producer Richard A. Shepherd. The Hunger is captivating from the first second we hear the majesty of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ and the dulcet tones of Bauhaus lead singer Pete Murphy who appears behind a partition of wire fencing as part of the live entertainment in a gothic style nightclub.
“Bela Lugosi’s dead (Bauhaus)”
Here we are also introduced to the characters Miriam and John Blaylock played by the stunning, effervescent Catherine Deneuve and a little known chap called David Bowie esquire. The reason for the Blaylocks being present becomes clear in the moments that follow. The premise is that Miriam – Deneuve is the vampire immortal of the couple, their companionship harping back to France during the 18th Century. During this period she subsequently chose and married John a classical cellist and in doing so offered her lover eternal life. “Forever and ever”? In order to sustain their continued eternal lifestyle we all know vampires must feed on the blood of mortals, thus their visit to the nightclub in search of unsuspecting victims that can provide their need for bloodletting and sustenance.
“Choosing their quarry (Deneuve & Bowie)”
Tony Scott’s opening montage keeps you on edge as he flicks between three consequential events that intertwine and later will connect the imagery he provides with an unfolding storyline that starts to make perfect sense in the scheme of things. The imagery of Pete Murphy pressing against the wire fence of a stage set allows the Bauhaus classic tune to collide effortlessly with that of the movies opening and intermittent metal beat soundtrack, hauntingly created by David Lawson. The electronic score and spectacular classical pieces throughout the film were produced by Denny Jaeger and Michel Rubini under the musical direction of Howard Blake. This opening electronic heartbeat creates a seg-way for what the Blaylocks have in store for the two guests they have hand picked and invited back to their secluded Art Deco fronted home? for what Ann Magnuson – disco girl and John Stephen Hill – disco boy think will be an evening of partner exchange? What we get here however becomes a symbolic slaughter of two people. The chained Egyptian Ankh’s (key of life) come to represent what we later find out may be the actual origins of Miriam the immortal. These jewelled symbols hang around the Blaylocks necks and have a more serious use other than adornments. Scott’s vampires do not have pointy teeth nor do they fall into the stereotypical use of the word vampire. Miriam and John make use of their erotic sexual encounter to arouse and stimulate. It is during these encounters that the blades which are hidden in their Ankh’s are used on the two victims. As the two vampires slice open their victims necks in unison a third piece of imagery is sporadically introduced in conjunction and we are offered an horrific moment as the male of two laboratory Barbary Macaque, (monkeys) bites and tears apart it’s female partner? The tension Scott builds between the three different juxtapositions is quite spectacularly dealt with and the violence and the initial glamourisation of the sexual tension is immediately dismissed as the after effects of the violence hit home and we the audience must take stock as to what as just taken place. We are shown the resulting conclusion in its dark and horrific glory, e.g. the eventual disposal of the dead bodies after the event and the torn apart corpse of said female monkey?
“The moment before ankh”
The Blaylocks cross the bridge from New Jersey back into New York. The music playing becomes classical in tone, (Franz Schubert’s – Piano Trio in E, 1st Movement) and has a peaceful calming effect that hides a dark foreboding that underlines recent events. We see our two cold and calculated killers return in the concealment of a glacier dawn to their main home which is a large opulent New York town house. Here we see the vampires dispose of the bin bagged bodies from the boot of their Cadillac into the large furnace beneath their grandiose home. During the next several moments of screen time we see John and Miriam showing their true love, tenderness and intimacy toward each other in what seems a preordained ceremony of cleansing before rest. Sadly for John he is not afforded the comfort of sleep and suddenly and inexplicably becomes restless, insomniac. His mind becomes full of flashback memory of his two century old past. He is inwardly starting to doubt that Miriam’s promise of an eternal love and life may not be the ultimate conclusion, more to the point is he beginning to feel the early signs of a sudden onset of growing decrepitude?
So what happened to the monkeys I here you cry. Where do the monkey’s fit in? The connection between all the opening strands of story start to become clearer as we are introduced to one Dr. Sarah Roberts – Susan Sarandon and other members of staff including her on screen partner Tom Haver – Cliff De Young who are studying the extremely rare genetic condition of Progeria – “Hutchinson–Gilford Progeria Syndrome”. The group are searching for a possible development or breakthrough in scientifically being able to slow, reverse or even stop the curse of this illness, an illness in childhood that causes the body to age at a greater accelerated rate than the actual age of those suffering with the condition which at a certain point in the illness leads to an obvious low life expectancy to those afflicted. Dwarfism and a severe visual physical accelerated ageing process are clear symptoms of this rare medical ailment which has a distinct physical recognition pattern. (Important you Remember the association with John Blaylock’s sudden inflicted discomfort and insomnia) and is their a similar behavioural pattern being displayed by the male killer Macaque? The connection between Dr. Roberts, Miriam and John Blaylock will also result in the creation of the stories ultimate betrayal and subsequent love triangle which initially begins largely through early subliminal contact on behalf of Miriam who initially sees Dr Roberts publicising her scientific work via the publishing of her book which as the written title ‘Sleep and Longevity’ and is based on her studies and scientific findings which she is seen plugging on a television talk show, as briefly noted by Miriam. Miriam’s predicament in choosing between life and death for those in her life is spectacularly highlighted as it starts to become obvious that her current partner John as started the irreversible process of physically dying. Inwardly Miriam’s anxiety grows as she realises she is in the process of loosing her beloved and has to acknowledge that yet again she must begin the search for yet another partner, which is the ignition for a sad but necessary need for selection. It is an all too familiar scenario, however distant the past memories of the last occasions! Once the obvious signs of illness take a hold of those that have come and gone previous in her long lifetime she understands the process that seems to leave her partners with little or no dignity left intact when the inevitable end comes. This is the nature of things in this realm of vampirism and despite she being able to continue on it is the sufferance of her partners that always becomes the sad historical provenance which Scott in his direction highlights as a familiar paradigm of the Miriam character and shows what seems to be and despite past experience that she is inadequately able to deal with the consequence, it reveals Miriam’s own severe vulnerability or cowardice, a problem she refrains from explaining to those she originally chooses from the outset. Is it selfishness unsurpassed or does she hope that one day the old problems of many centuries of loosing partners will one day pass by without incident or will there be a discovery for a cure, an ‘elixir of life’ that will eradicate, transfuse her partner with her own eternal trait instead of loosing yet another long term companion. Whatever her reasoning the betrayal behind those famous words resonate and once again come back to haunt her. “Forever and ever?” the words that ultimately hide a long term deceit with terrible consequences.
Well this undercurrent of tragedy begins its process we are introduced to a young and excitable and learned teenage girl who the Blaylock’s are privately tutoring to play classical violin. Alice Cavender – Beth Ehlers (a possible future partner of Miriam perhaps?) Alice is often brutal in her youthful honesty and appraisal and is a forthright young lady who is quick to point out peoples foibles, often in a very undiplomatic way which is clearly noted on entering the Blaylock’s home as she begins to give John the third degree on his somewhat uncharacteristic dishevelment.
“Alice attending the Blaylock’s home”
As she enters the hallway she sticks a polaroid camera in Johns face and as the flash ignites she quickly takes his picture before commenting abruptly.
“Gotcha…you look awful, what have you been doing?” John replies slightly abrupt and put upon, “none of your business”. She hands him the photo. It is during Alice’s music lesson that John becomes suddenly but not unexpectedly ill as Miriam plays piano and Alice performs violin. John stops playing his cello and leaves the room, “forgive me” he mutters. As he leaves the room Alice enquires, “What’s wrong with him”? Miriam replies, “He’ll be all right. He’s having trouble sleeping”. At this point and without any sense of hidden irony, ‘out of the mouth of babes’ Alice responds “Want some ‘ludes? I’ve got some in my case”. Miriam taken aback replies in genuine shock at her young student, “What?” “Quaaludes”… “Alice!” Alice continues, “I stole ’em from my stepmother”. Again Miriam double takes, “Alice!” Alice who is unrepentant as her divulgence continues. “She doesn’t care; she gets them by the gross! She’s got every pill ever invented! She collects them”. Miriam agast at such openness simply replies, “Poor woman”. “My dad says she’s scared of getting old”. Not only does this moment have resonance in the fact that Miriam the immortal can still be shocked at such revelations but also reveals the truth and sadness in such a statement. As John listens in on the conversation we note the films moment of character clarity as we see yet again the initial blasé way in which Miriam is more concerned in that moment with Alice’s seemingly innocuous confession rather than dealing with matters concerning John. He for his part now understands that the end may indeed be nigh.
The film now begins briefly to concentrate on the first social interaction between Miriam and Sarah. The connection is finally made when Miriam attends a book signing of the good doctor. Here we also see the power of Miriam who uses suggestion to draw Sarah in to her world with the use of subliminal and finally conversational introduction though brief. Is the introduction pre ordained and does Miriam have an ulterior motive that concerns coveting Sarah Roberts as a possible replacement for the ailing John. With the brief encounter over the mysterious Miriam Blaylock leaves not before leaving an everlasting impression on Sarah without totally understanding why she as suddenly become so fascinated by this elegant woman?
As if one Blaylock is not enough, soon after and back in her working capacity Sarah has a visitor to The Park West Medical Centre. A man who’s abrupt manner begins to unnerve Sarah during their brief company. The man begins to ask questions of Roberts regarding her work. He also makes it clear to the doctor that maybe he could serve a purpose in her own research on ‘Hutchinson–Gilford Progeria Syndrome’ more for his own selfish benefit rather than any interest in furthering Dr Robert’s cause. This man who seems both frustrated and aloof in his uncompromising manner is the ever deteriorating John Blaylock. Sarah in response to the strangers demeanour begins to think this visitor is just another crank caller looking for attention? With great unease she informs the stranger that if he is willing to wait until she as attended a scheduled meeting she will thereafter carry out tests on him to ascertain what she believes is a none diagnosis of a ranting man! He is escorted to the patience lounge and she in her false promise hopes the man will get bored and eventually leave. She as no intentions of curtailing to the man’s demands and will spend the next two hours watching the killer Macaque reach the end of the line as he like John Blaylock begins to age in short swift before death. During the next several moments of screen time we see the waiting man become older by the moment. Dick Smith’s make-up effects of the ageing process are extremely credible, in fact the early stages of the age process that we see John experience are still some of the best make-up effects I have seen – pre CGI! nay period.
“John Blaylock, The undead soul”
The latter more extreme changes are slightly more exaggerated but so is the characters condition. So those who think Bowie starts to look like Grandpa from, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, circa 1974, that is because this is a horror tale people and not something to be taken quite literal as “URRRRGH!!” Many did for some unbeknown reason? Sorry but I still get angry at such nonsense. Dick Smith’s work has improved every film he has been connected too, including his brilliant work on The Hunger, end of! Johns agitation becomes clear as he waits and time passes by. These moments, hours are extraordinarily constructed by Scott in his direction. The desperation becomes palpable as John first looses track of time and then looses patience as his illness begins to take a greater hold and he becomes slowly but surely unhinged. He starts to wander the medical centre as his hunger for blood starts to uncontrollably escalate but due to his busy surroundings he feels tainted by the fear of desperation. In the next two scenes we see Johns temptations of the flesh and what lies beneath start to consume his thoughts and causes dangerous and erratic behaviour, which is also being uncomfortably noted by staff that work in the establishment who now witness this man’s presence – note the staff toilet scene in which John almost commits murder. In the next scene John who looks like an octogenarian by this stage finds his escape from the medical centre worsens when he boards a lift/elevator that is crammed full to capacity. What I love about this moment is the genuine helplessness of a character who previously to this had been in total control of his inner ‘monster’ but now finds viewing a nurses neck and the flesh of others that surrounds him, ‘he’ is now nothing more than a blood addicted observer who can do little but suffer in a purgatory that oozes out of Johns fading demeanour and Scott does a wonderful job in amplifying the characters tension filled moments of which this build up will surely have consequences, you just know it will? As John leaves the claustrophobic confines of the lift he does so as Dr Sarah Roberts passes by the man she had doubted previous and whose appearance has now changed so drastically. After an exchange of words in which John derides the doctor and her false promise he attempts to make haste. Having wasted many hours of his life just waiting, he walks away with the now convinced Dr Roberts regretting her mistake, she still stunned by Johns appearance goes in pursuit of the man she knows only as Mr Blaylock but unfortunately for her John slips away.
The next several moments of The Hunger focus upon John and his attempt to feed his desperate hunger. A young roller skater skates to the sound of his ghetto blaster (remember them Ed!) Funtime by Iggy Pop (backing vocals by a guy called David Bowie?) echo in the confines of the underpass. Unbeknownst to said roller skater, lurking in the shadows of this place is a man who is planning to kill him? They have never met but it is not long before John announces his presence. From out of the shadows the young man is grabbed from behind and pulled toward the wall. A struggle ensues as the now very frail John swipes the blade of his Ankh across the skaters throat. Fortunately for the young roller skater he is youthful and athletic and though he is taken by total surprise he manages to use his strength and quick reflex reaction to struggle free from a weakened and desperate John. The skater collapses on his haunches and starts throwing a verbal tirade toward his would be killer as he holds his blooded throat. John heads for the underpass steps and exits the scene in panic leaving his victim (perhaps?) fighting for his life. With the tense battle for survival still fresh in the mind Tony Scott in his great wisdom plays on this moment of madness by reintroducing the young Alice to proceedings. She is standing outside the Blaylocks townhouse. “I remember the first time I saw this moment and my initial thought those many decades ago were, I hope Miriam answers the intercom… please let it be Miriam?” Sadly for the Alice character Scott hits we the audience hard with our worst fears as a familiar/unfamiliar voice answers? “Oh dear!” This part of the film is not just unsettling but is also quite wonderfully constructed in build up and carefully thought out in a suspenseful approach. I still think this is one of the films defining moments and adds a coldness to the viewers flesh. The desperation and barbarity of this scene is pretty amazing and combines your fear of inevitability with a not often seen action that is very rarely depicted in film (for obvious reasons). Scott manages to film the murder of a child, though at no time glories in this particular killing. What the director does here is show a cruel act have a consequence of action. When the killer apologises for what he is about to do, “Forgive me?” you immediately note the cold hard fact that such a callous act is unforgiving and therefore gives little credence to Johns desperation. The events after the death offer no rejoicing but only tragedy and a sense of loathing in depiction, indeed this action highlights the wretchedness of John and his animalistic nature and morality, it shows clearly only the operant path of tragedy and waste that this murder as left behind. The aftermath of this selfish act leaves John still unreplenished and Miriam devastated not just by the fact that John as murdered Alice but she must now also deal with Johns deathly status. The reveal in this moment makes clear the issue of what happens once Miriam’s partners begin to fade. This revelation is a terrifying prospect for all her lovers past and present. As Miriam carries John in her arms to the top floor of the building the lift/elevator journey is were Miriam breaks the news like a poet reciting an established ode. “Humankind die one way, we another. Their end is final. Ours is not. In the earth, in the rotting wood, in the eternal darkness, we will see and hear and feel” Very chilling. The lift reaches the third floor and Miriam steps out into a vast room which as become a mausoleum for her many lovers who are now lost souls and members of the undead. The cruel irony hits home as she ‘in ceremony’ ritualistically places John into a crate that will be his eternal place of undead rest. How startling is that? You should also note at this juncture that the significance of this moment also plays a very important part in the spectacular and climatic ending which works only if you consider the vampiric limbo of these past lovers.
“Miriam (Deneuve) & Dr Roberts (Sarandon)”
Sarah Roberts finds herself standing outside the townhouse of John Blaylock the man she had dismissed previously from her research department. The person who answers the door surprises her. It is the woman she briefly met at the book signing, one Miriam Blaylock. Dr Roberts taken aback is there in regard of Mr Blaylock who had visited her at Park West. The misunderstanding between Roberts and John Blaylock as led her to this point? (or was it destiny?) After a brief doorstep discussion in which Miriam explains to the curious doctor that John as gone to Switzerland for treatment for his illness. Frustrated by the fact that she, Dr Roberts is desperate to know more about Miriam’s husband she leaves her calling card and asks if Miriam would keep in contact regarding her husband. Miriam though brief in conference it seems as also taken this opportunity to cast some kind of further spell upon the doctor. As the two women exchange words a man stands across the road from them and seems focused upon the Blaylock residence. As Dr Roberts leaves Miriam on the doorstep The curious man approaches Miriam and quickly identifies himself as Lieutenant Allegrezza – Don Hedaya. He is there regarding a missing persons report filed by the parents of Alice Cavender. The usual lines of enquiry take place as the police officer is guided around the beautiful interior of the Blaylocks home and is given a brief statement by Miriam regarding the missing girl and the whereabouts of her husband?
Scott now turns his focus upon Sarah Roberts and the aftermath of her latest meeting with Miriam Blaylock. She is symptomatically showing signs of carelessness, (daydreaming?) Walking in front of a travelling truck highlights her trance like state. This is also followed by Hearing the phone ring(when it clearly doesn’t). There is also her sudden disinterest in her partner Tom and an increase in her apparent lackadaisical disposition. It is during a clear dream that Sarah connects to Miriam Blaylock who she visualises in a state of mourning. It is the constant presence of this woman that draws her back to the home of Miriam like a moth to light! “I don’t know why I am here” Sarah announces? Tony Scott shoots the seduction scene between Deneuve and Sarandon with an eroticism and dreamlike state that arouses not just the two characters but the audience also. (Come on you know it did!) The lesbian scenes are gloriously polished and satisfying and the daze like state in which Scott directs underlines the real motive for Miriam’s seduction of Dr Roberts. The blood exchange between the two women is part of a sexual ceremony and hints at the fact that maybe Sarah has been overwhelmed by an uncontrolled passion not necessarily of her own volition? The aftermath of the afternoon sexual liaison has left Sarah in further transformation of character as is clearly highlighted by the restaurant scene that follows. The exchanges – inquisition between Sarah and Tom Havers underpin a possible jealousy of an insecure man or is it just simply Tom being observant of the sudden change in his partners mood? Whatever the reason for the argument the restaurant exchanges highlight the fact that Sarah’s character is not just emotionally changing but this scene also displays her unexplained and newly formed viewpoint regarding her surroundings. What those around her see, including Tom is not necessarily what Sarah is now opened up to, which hints that Sarah sees in new layers of visual outlay. It seems her afternoon encounter has gifted her a new untapped six sense? The restaurant swimming pool imagery hints at this very premise which also includes a sense of sexual stimulation that highlights and may even motivate an appetite for these new senses. The side effect of this change quickly takes a toll on Sarah however and here the process of Miriam coveting the doctor becomes a chaotic inner battle for Sarah, as a result of her behaviour, Tom and her research cohorts carry out medical tests on Sarah. The blood tests reveal an unexplainable ‘foreign’ strain invading Sarah’s bloodstream. This revelation leaves Tom desperate for answers and leaves Sarah with the onset of a transforming character? The hunger starts to take a hold of the doctor and in her desperation she returns to the person she now holds fully responsible for her confusion and illness? (or is that her addiction?) A violent confrontation between the two women not only reveals what has happened to Sarah but also shows the true scale and power of Miriam the immortal and her position in the scheme of her vampire origin and disposition. It seems she is from an original vampire bloodline and that is why she therefore can control everything both mortal and undead. The refusal of Sarah to willingly accept both her new realm and a forced upon relationship with Miriam becomes the films catalyst. As Sarah fights her hunger and refuses to curtail to initial change, she begins to suffer severe withdrawal from her new addiction. Miriam feels that providing an incentive for her would-be partner might transfer Sarah completely and she, Miriam would then have her new partner by her side as she ordains it to be. The battle of wills will cost two more people their lives before Sarah finally succumbs to the hunger of vampirism. The final moments of Tony Scott’s classic horror piece reach a climax that firstly offers you an unexpected twist that will change the dynamic irreversibly and also offers us a scene of vengeance that is very unique and spectacularly dealt with. Dick Smith’s work is brought to the fore and highlights what you assume is an uncompromising visceral ending that will take no prisoners. The finale really does twist the blood? What lets the film down here is the additional confused epilogue that the studios in their foolish wisdom thought would be a great way to end what had been up until the original ending? a pitch perfect horror film. I will not detail the confusion but let me say here that though extremely annoying it does not taint the whole film nor the final horror confrontation but leaves you with an understanding that someone other than Scott wanted silly loose ends hanging ridiculously around the neck of a masterful piece of horror cinema. It is the understanding that the silly add-on was based on the premise that if the film was successful that they could then open up a sequel that would include a return for one of the victorious characters? The ending in which we see Lieutenant Allegrezza wandering through the abandoned, empty property of the Blaylocks was sufficient and also left things in the balance anyway? Whatever the reason for the London apartment shot at the end it must not at any time distract from the brilliance of what is otherwise a début film from a director who entered the fray way too soon for foolhardy critics to appreciate the finer points of cinema. Tony Scott’s, The Hunger is a wonderful, concise film and delivers many great moments throughout its duration. As a genre movie it is near perfect as it is different to many contemporary efforts before and since its release. We make no apology for genuinely having a great affection for Scott’s vampire drama nor do we feel out of order for suggesting it is one of the true great vampire films ever made. Enough said foolish critics! E. D. Leach.