The Hunger (1983) - When I realized I did not remember this movie from the year after I graduated high school it was a fine reason to revisit it. I know I have seen it but where? Sometime in the mid to late eighties I started watching a lot of VHS and with that most of the horror movies I had missed the decades before. So probably this is the time period. This film stylishly executed by Tony Scott is an example of a film with a rich design but with just something missing either in the script or the execution that keeps it from being a great movie. It certainly had star power with the lovely Catherine Deneuve playing the lead Miriam Blaylock. A beautiful and wonderful actress she pulls off a complicated role in the film as the Maker vampire with a compulsion to not be alone. She is known for her roles in Repulsion (1965), Dancer in the Dark (2000) and 8 Women (2002). David Bowie as her companion John is pivotal as the made companion who sees his time coming to an end. Susan Sarandon as blood doctor focusing on anti aging, Sarah Roberts who may hold out a bit of hope for John and Miriam. Director Tony Scott was at the beginning of a long and successful career that is still going strong today. This is the film before his first giant hit Top Gun (1986) and he certainly shows in this film he has some chops. Later he would have many more hits, Beverley Hills Cop 2 (1987), True Romance (1993), Crimson Tide (1995) Man on Fire (2004) and Deja Vu (2006). Maybe not giant hits but worthy films. I like Denzel Washington so several of his films fell into that ball park. It was also funny to see a young Willem Dafoe in a bit part at the beginning of his career before he killed it in Streets of Fire (1984).
The story is a bit of a sad one, Miriam is a vampire from ancient Egypt who has survive the years of loneliness by creating companions through blood exchange. The problem is that after a couple hundred years the companions suddenly and rapidly age until they are husks of themselves. Still alive but not able to interact with the world they are confined to an eternity in coffins Miriam keeps in her house. Unable to bring herself to destroy the companions she loves she really makes them suffer a fate worse than death. She really is a sick character, not only does she never relinquish her hold on her rotting lovers but she grooms the next knowing that the aging is coming. In this film there is a fourteen year old girl Alice (Beth Ehlers) who she and John teach classical violin to. It seems like a way for the couple to interact with the world around them until you realize that Miriam has that girl targeted as her next companion. The creepiness factor of the film goes way up with that realization.
John knowing that his rapid aging is beginning seeks out Dr. Sarah Roberts who is working in the field of aging but is unable to get much help from her before he too is so decrepit that he is boxed in the attic of the lush apartment. This is after he makes one last ditch effort to save himself by feeding on young Alice killing her in the process. A nice subtext is going on in this scene where he knows his fate. He has seen the boxes in the attic. He also knows that Alice is his replacement so to kill her also is a stab at Miriam who had promised him they would be together forever. Taking out his replacement is a wonderful passive aggressive expression of the anguish he must be feeling about being replaced.
Sarah comes into the story after John has been boxed, having been unable to help him she wants to check up on him. Unfortunately for her Miriam is now looking for a new companion, it speaks to the vampires character that the thought of even a day without a loving companion is more than she can tolerate. She seduces and does blood exchange with Sarah in a love scene that is all style. Primarily this turn in the film gives the film a way to end. Sarah after the afternoon tryst begins transforming and in the process is examined by her doctor friends. This leads to the idea that the vampire blood in her system is fighting her own for control of her body. The inverse would also be true if enough human blood was introduced into the vampires system. So when the final confrontation between Sarah and Miriam happens the dreamlike scene that occurs can make sense.
There is a final scene with Sarah appearing to be the main vampire in another city, the haunting sounds of Miriam moaning in a box in the apartment does not make a lot of sense. So I did a bit of research (thanks wikipedia) and read that the scene was added later to make the possibility of a sequel more viable. In the end this is a bit of a slow burn film full of mood, odd angled shots and a dreamlike quality that could have used more of the outside world to break up the monotony of the sad lives of the characters. I can recommend it as there is some really well shot sequences that are worth seeing. If though you are easily bored this may not be the picture for you.