The Hunger DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Warner Home Video
Directed by Tony Scott
Written by James Costigan, Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas from Whitley Strieber's novel
1983, Region 1 (NTSC), 96 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 5th, 2004
Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock
David Bowie as John Blaylock
Susan Sarandon as Sarah Roberts
Cliff De Young as Tom Haver
Beth Ehlers as Alice Cavender
Bending the traditional movie 'rules' of vapirism, Tony Scott's first feature film follows two well-heeled, centuries old vampires, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John Blaylock (David Bowie). Devoid of fangs, they bleed their victims by cutting their jugulars with small blades hidden inside amulets of the egyptian symbol ankh; The symbol of everlasting life for the vampires, but the complete opposite for their prey.
All is not well with John, although he is a vampire he is not a pure blood like Miriam and after several hundred years of youth he is approaching the same end as her previous lovers and ageing rapidly. In desperation he contacts Dr Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), who is conducting research into slowing the effects of ageing, to find a cure for his condition.
Initially, Dr Roberts dismisses Blaylock as a time waster until she sees that, over the course of a couple of hours, he has aged several decades. By this time Blaylock has grown tired of waiting and leaves the hospital despite the pleas of Dr Roberts. Her interest is piqued too late and Miriam is forced to lay John's dessicated, but still living body to rest in her attic with her former lovers.
When Dr Roberts finally tracks down the Blaylock home, she finds no sign of John but becomes gradually more spellbound by Miriam's charms until they become entwined in a torrid lesbian affair and Miriam plans to turn Sarah into her latest vampire companion.
As someone who grew up on more 'alternative' kind of music, it was a pleasant surprise to see Peter Murphy and Bauhaus performing 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' over the opening scenes of The Hunger as Miriam and John Blaylock seduce their victims in a nightclub. For the following 15 minutes however, a mess of cut scenes, flashbacks and seemingly unrelated images leave the viewer in a state of confusion as to what is actually happening.
Once the artistic gymnastics settle down, the story starts to form some cohesion around the Blaylock's lives. The look of the film is a blueprint for the 80's decadence of the yuppie culture, and shows the same slick style that Scott exhibits in his other films of the decade; Top Gun (1986) and Beverly Hills Cop (1987). Although the film is visually very impressive, it seems as if Scott was trying too hard to make an impact with his first feature and the overall result is a movie that is too much style over not enough substance.
Special effects master Dick Smith shows why he was at the forefront of movie make-up for so long with some stunning ageing work on David Bowie which would stand its ground against anything presented in movies made 20 years later. One of the closing scenes, where John Blaylock rouses Miriam's previous conquests and has them turn on her, is a truly menacing sequence aided by Smith's make-up effects. It also punctuates just how different the Blayock vampires are from 'regular' movie vampires. They venture out in the daylight, they have no fangs, they do grow old (in John's case), and the revenge sequence shows they can be killed without the textbook stake through the heart.
One of the most famous scenes from this movie is the lesbian sex sequence between Deneuve and Sarandon which, despite the age of the movie, is rendered in a dreamy and quite erotic manner. Shot mostly through lace curtains giving a soft focus to the proceedings it is surprisingly explicit for such high profile actresses and is so tastefully shot, it remains something they could both remain proud of to this day.
Ultimately, the movie creates a lot more questions than it answers, especially in the ending which both contradicts and lessens the impact of the actions that Sarah Roberts takes to escape her life enslaved to vampirism. There is no information offered as to why Miriam's companions age, but she does not even though she must have had human in her bloodline at some point. No doubt the movie is slick, stylish and erotic but in terms of delivering a coherent story it falls short of the mark.
Video and Audio:
Warner Home Video have presented a pristine print of the movie on this disc. Despite a lot of the scenes taking place in darkened rooms, backlit from the sun shining through the windows, there is never any sign of digital noise or artifacting evident in the azure gloom of the sets and the characters are clear and well defined. The few daylight scenes are crisp and clear and bursts of light and colour never appear to be over contrasting. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
A Mono soundtrack accompanies the movie which shows a startling lack of effort on Warner's behalf. While the soundtrack score, largely uplifting classical pieces, is exquisite to hear it often overpowers the dialogue and the I found myself constantly toggling the volume between loud and soft.
- Commentary Track
- Theatrical Trailer
- Stills Gallery
The commentary features director Tony Scott and actress Susan Sarandon. Although there is some interesting behind the scenes information imparted by the two, there is little discussion or insight into the story and the confusion certain parts of it create. It is also evident that the two recorded their commentaries separately as has been the case with some recent Warner Brothers commentary tracks.
The stills gallery is divided into stills from the movie, oromo stills, behind the scenes, special effects, and movie posters.
|Movie:||– An interesting twist on standard vampire lore, but ends up being a jumbled mess.|
|Video:||– Absolutely perfect. Given the age of the movie it is a very impressive transfer.|
|Audio:||– Considering how good the picture quality is, it is a huge shame there isn't at least a 5.1 re-authored soundtrack option.|
|Features:||– A token few extras, but nothing to write home about. I'm not a big fan of commentary tracks and this one did nothing to change my mind.|
|Overall:||– Nicely presented Video quality, but overall a disappointing movie.|