Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 1: The Hunger

The decision concerning the first selection in this month's foray into horror was an easy one to make: it was the first horror movie in my Netflix instant queue. The reason today's movie was so readily available simply stems from the fact that it stars David Bowie. Like all red-blooded American males, Bowie stands as a sort of pop culture demigod, a figure to be followed, studied, and worshipped. I've seen some Bowie's other acting work (Labyrinth, the Prestige come to mind, I have yet to see the Man Who Fell To Earth) and know that he'd be perfect for his role in the Hunger- a vampire! Bowie has this aloof, sexy, stylish feel to him and that of course would translate perfectly to a portrayal of the undead.

Hunger begins with Bowie and eterna-fox Catherine Deneuve picking up a couple of goth kids at a club while Bauhaus' goth rock standard "Bela Lugosi's Dead" drones over the opening titles. Before we know it, the pair are drinking the blood of their would-be hookups. The song and the juxtaposition set the whole tone for the film- this ain't your daddy's vampire movie. Gone are the goth trappings that often constrained vampire fiction- no bats and Transylvanian castles to be found here. Instead, our vampires this go-around are a stylish Manhattan couple. Everything seems to be going fine for lovers Miriam (the older vampire in the relationship) and John (the man she turned to vampirism centuries ago) until John begins to age rapidly, something vampires really aren't supposed to do. With this crisis, the pair seek out an aging disorder specialist (Susan Sarandon!) and bring her into their world.

Hunger is interesting as far as vampire movies are concerned, the word "vampire" is never mentioned and Deneuve and Bowie don't seem to sport any vampire trademarks such as fangs (they slit the throats of their victims) or aversion to sunlight (most of the movie actually takes place during the day, go figure). What we end up with is for lack of a better term a deconstruction of the vampire mythos. We're left intentionally in the dark as far as details about vampires go, and we're treated to atmosphere and eroticism over gore and scares (just wait until the climax though). The Hunger was definitely, as far as I know, a new direction in vampire fiction at the time of its release, and one can clearly see where more recent vampire movies and stories might draw inspiration from it. Also, there's some New York-in-the-80's AIDS metaphors laced throughout, another affliction that turns one's own blood into a threat.

Verdict: 69 Congos