Saturday, July 31, 2010

In short: The Girl With The Hungry Eyes (1995)

In the 1930s, model Louise (Christina Fulton) hangs herself in the beloved hotel in South Beach she owns. She has good reasons for it: her fiancée is regularly cheating on her and tries to steal her money, and the hotel itself is somehow responsible for a string of murders. Before she kills herself, Louise hides the deed of ownership to the place away in a safety deposit box.

About sixty years later, the hotel is a decrepit ruin without any occupants. It doesn't like this state of affairs at all and so revives Louise as a vampire. It wants her to get the deed in her hands again. And while she's at it, she can also start killing people, feeding their life energy back to the house.

But Louise has a fatal weakness - she's a romantic. In her nightly ramblings, she stumbles upon the formerly famous photographer Carlos (Isaac Turner) and into something of a new modelling career. Sure enough, it doesn't take long until she falls for the seedy idiot. But Louise has certain trust issues, what with the way her last relationship to something more mobile than a hotel turned out, the hotel doesn't like her lovelorn ways one bit, and Carlos owes rent money to some very dangerous people (yeah, I don't know either), so there are quite a few scenes of melodramatic writhing and killing to get through before the film comes to an end.

The Girl With The Hungry Eyes is a weird one. Obviously in love with its own earnest artistic ambitions, but never really able to fulfil them, I still appreciate it for being ambitious (and being loosely based on a story by the excellent Fritz Leiber), if only because the mid-90s weren't exactly the point in time when anyone was trying to make erotic horror movies more influenced by artsy/weird 70s films than by Anne Rice. You'll have to give director Jon Jacobs that he was trying his damndest to make a film in a very personal style.

The film's problems are manifold: the sound is so bad that the dialogue is at times incomprehensible, the film is terribly ineffectual when it comes to explaining itself (which would be less of a problem if it wouldn't so often try to explain itself), the plotting is rather random and jumpy and the acting is often atrocious. And then there's the idiotic vocoder voice with which the house speaks (and honestly, there's no need for it to speak at all, not even expositional need) that ruins exactly those scenes that are supposed to say totally profound things about love and life.

On the plus side, Christina Fulton's performance is appropriately weird, going from involuntarily humorous to quite disturbing to sleepwalkerish from one scene to the next, the shady locations (who knew Miami is this ugly?) are moody and fitting and Jacobs is trying his damndest to use every art house movie technique he knows of, at times with grating effect, at other times surprisingly successful.

Fulton's bizarre performance, Jacob's direction, the helpless groping for a philosophical profundity the film just isn't able to carry, and moments of classic exploitational badness and seediness come together as if the film were a free-for-all brawl between these elements. At times, this schizophrenic feel lends the film the atmosphere of a strange dream, at other times it outright ruins what the Jacobs is trying to do.


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