Directed: Tony Scott
Written: Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas
There are bad movies, there are excruciatingly bad movies, and then there's The Hunger. With all due respect to the late, great David Bowie, this film made me wonder how many synonyms there are for the word pretentious. I'm sure many people have admired this film for some reason or another over the decades since it was made, but really, once you get past the sensationalism of the sex and the self-indulgent music video cinematography, what you're left with is just a very bad vampire movie.
It is an excellent sex scene, so tender and beautifully rendered. The lead-in line — "Mrs Blalock, are you hitting on me?" — is as great as a similar line uttered once upon a time to Mrs Robinson. The two women circle each other, one curious, one the perfect predator, until a mutual agreement is made. It is exquisite, and works even better when seen in isolation. Just fast forward to the seduction, watch it, revel in it, and then spare yourself the rest of this movie.
The plot revolves around Miriam Blalock (Catherine Deneuve), a rich, seductive woman with a terrible secret. She and her husband John (David Bowie) are vampires, and they prey mercilessly on the beautiful goths of Manhattan. They hunt together, the perfect team, picking up couples and luring them back to their enormous house for sex. Once they get their fill of blood, they wrap up their victims and dispose of them in a purpose-built furnace in the basement. It is a smooth operation.
John contracts a deadly disease that causes him to age rapidly over a period of days. He seeks out the help of a reknowned doctor who is doing research in the field, Dr Sarah Roberts, but she dismisses him as a prank. John withers away and is thrown into his coffin by Miriam, and we see he is one of about twenty lovers Miriam has somehow managed to outlive. They have withered but they are also immortal, so they keep each other company in a pile of coffins. She loves them all, and is loyal to them in her heart, but her addiction to youth and beauty and blood is too strong. She must move on and find another companion.
Sarah is curious about John, and pays Miriam a visit. Cue the aforementioned seduction, which doubles as Miriam's opportunity to turn Sarah into a vampire. I'm not quite sure how, in the haze of sex, Sarah somehow doesn't notice she is sucking Miriam's blood, but suck it she does. A lot of curtains blow around in an ethereal way, and a lot of doves fly into shot (where the heck did the doves come from?), and then the two women are basking in the afterglow.
The film then goes into a death spiral. Sarah wakes up and realises she's changing. Miriam tries to smooth it over, but Sarah won't sink quietly into the depths of depravity. She fights her new lover in a desperate battle to remain human.
There's some more hideously self-conscious camera work that looks like a bad Stevie Nicks video, and twenty minutes later Miriam is suddenly getting her just desserts as all her past vampire lovers rise from their coffins to take revenge. At least the terrible zombie effects made me laugh.
I'm not quite sure what I expected. A classic film perhaps? Something with an ageless beauty, or some other timeless quality that would justify why people still talk about this film today? The sex scene is actually pretty safe by today's standards, but I know for its time it was considered daring. It is great, and deserves so much more than the hideous film that surrounds and suffocates it on all sides.