Good Vampire Films: The Hunger
Right-o then. It’s Friday so it’s vampire day and this week’s offering is Tony Scott’s 1983 debut: The Hunger. This is a strange film, in all honesty, but nevertheless it’s an interesting film and one well worth a look. Not to mention that it is the best-looking Tony Scott film that I’ve seen. No one in their right mind is ever going to say that a film with Catherine Deneuve as a lesbian vampire is a bad one, or at least I’m not going to, but I do kind of wonder if it is actually a good one.
Before I get into the more sticky content of this film, I’ve got to say that I think Tony Scott gets a lot of flack. The only film of his, that I’ve seen, that I out and out hate is that shitpile Domino, but I can find a bit of love for almost everything else he’s made- particularly The Last Boy Scout. The Hunger is a remarkably assured debut with great promise- regardless of what the overall verdict on it is.
The Hunger is hard to describe because it’s basically 2 films cobbled together. The first one is the story of Miriam and John a pair of ancient vampires. Miriam is eternal, but each of her lovers stays young up to a certain point when they start aging suddenly and irreversibly. Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie play the couple, and the focus of this section is really on Bowie. Out of the blue, he suddenly starts aging. Ordinarily he’d be done, but this time there is a sliver of hope in the form of Dr. Sarah (Susan Sarandon) who may be able to save him. She can’t of course, and he ends up aging far too fast and being stuffed in a box in the attic for all eternity.
So it appears that as well as dementia and incontinence, old age also holds claustrophobia and incarceration as hazards. Anyhoo, on with the story: Sarah goes investigating and comes into contact with Miriam, who evilly seduces her and trades blood. One thing leads to another and the film ends with a frankly confusing zombie vampire fight and Susan Sarandon looking out over London while Miriam gibbers in a box in the other room. She’s now queen vampire.
The thing is, the problem with this film is that the first half, the Bowie section, is far, far better than all the guff with Sarandon. This may arguably be Bowie’s finest hour on screen. He’s confused, frightened and desperate as he starts aging and allows some real pathos into the role. It’s not a bad effort at all. Denueve maintains a constant level of icy sexuality, which is apt, and Sarandon is alright really, but Bowie outshines his far more illustrious co-stars. If the whole film had been about John and Miriam, then I honestly believe it would have been better.
However, that’s not to say the second section is completely worthless. Because to suggest such a thing about a film with a lesbian scene as hot as this one would be folly. Folly, I tell you!
This is probably the only real stroke of genius in Tony Scott’s entire career. The scene itself is brilliantly staged and deeply erotic (looking a hell of a lot like soft porn if I’m honest), but where Tony distinguishes himself is in the choice of cut. He puts the end of the scene at a natural point, and then literally the next shot is of a cut open rare steak. It’s clever, funny, and absolutely fitting for the material.
Then there’s the climax of the film itself. Reading up about it, I discovered that this was actually jammed in at the studio’s behest who were under the strange delusion that they could milk a sequel out of this. Quite how they ever thought that was going to happen will remain one of the coke addled mysteries of the early 80’s. Anyhow, precisely because of this creative decision The Hunger carries on past the natural closing point of the narrative. This is a shame.
I could waffle on and on about themes in this film, because it has been interpreted as an AIDS allegory, amongst other things, but it’s pretty pointless to do. This is a high end Vampire film that’s interesting from a variety of standpoints but is notably most memorable for a lesbian scene. That’s it. This is a flashy and superficial film, and you can attach any number of interpretations to it, but at the end of the day it’s a film with a great lesbian scene. And that’s it, the rest is utterly superfluous.
So, overall would I recommend it. Perhaps. It’s not boring, and it looks nice but I have my doubts about it. It’s an interesting debut, and Bowie’s greatest performance, but it’s not earth shattering. I do feel, however, that perhaps it would have been better served by being 2 films- an extended version of the Bowie half, and then the Sarandon half as a sequel. It’s a curate’s egg of a film- good in parts.
Oh, and watch out for the Willem Defoe cameo. I give it 2 Changs
Next up is a vampire film without a hint of lesbianism. I haven’t decided which one yet.
Until next time,