Displayed above are the issues of Fangoria The Hunger was covered in. On the left is issue #16, in the middle is issue #25 (novelist Whitley Strieber interviewed) and on the right is issue #26, (FX artist Dick Smith interviewed). I had issue #25 at one time, but it’s issue #26 I remember from grade school more vividly. Grade school was where a friend I had, Rob Ames, introduced me to Fangoria and it was that specific issue I remember him bringing in.
Going back briefly to issue #25. My only memory of that one was the day I bought it at the bookstore. The girl who rang me up looked at the cover and asked, “Is that a new movie coming out?” She may have wrinkled her face when she asked me that. I said shyly, “It is.” I always cringed when I bought a Fang at the bookstore. There was always some kind of comment about the magazine when whoever rang it up glanced at the cover. Sometimes they would ask what movie was that from. I was shy back then and just wanted the chick to ring it up and shove the magazine in the back without asking me anything.
I don’t have any memory of when I first saw it, though I do remember seeing a TV spot for it. The trailer on the disc brought that memory back.
Whitley Strieber’s take on vampires is just as unique as his take on werewolves with his novel, The Wolfen. I’ve never read The Hunger novel, so I can’t compare it with the movie like I was able to do in my Wolfen review. The vampires in late director Tony Scott’s first movie aren’t all that different from regular humans. They’re able to walk around in the light of day, they sport no fangs, or have any of the shape-shifting abilities classic vampires have (i.e. turn into a bat, a wolf, or mist) and apparently don’t have any aversion to holy objects, though this defense isn’t even used in Tony Scott’s adaptation. They do, however, share the same inhuman strength their classic brethren do, a degree of mental influence over their victims, and the need to feed on human blood, which they have to do once every seven days. They also, most importantly, share a knack for “immortality,” though in The Hunger, that immortality doesn’t mean they can’t be killed. They are immune from death by disease and natural aging, but from what what’s on display in the movie adaptation a stab to the throat or a fall from a great height can indeed “kill” them.
Never once is the word, “vampire,” uttered either. Understandable, since these aren’t your everyday vamps, a concept it shares with Near Dark (1987), another superb unique take on bloodsucker lore.
Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) and her “mate,” for lack of a better word, John (David Bowie) are ancient vampires hunting and living in modern day (1983) New York. There are several brief, stylish flashbacks that show how they met and how long Miriam has been alive. She’s at least five hundred years old, although there’s one flashback that shows her dressed in garments reminiscent of Cleopatra feeding on someone, which would put her life even farther back, like in the BC era.
But Miriam has a problem and that problem is the reason she’s had many lovers. The humans she turns don’t share the same longevity as she. Eventually they all get this progeria-type disease that ages them to a point where they’re quality of life becomes death-like. Miriam then puts their bodies in crates, which she then stores in the attic of her posh digs. There her corpse-like lovers seem to carry on a different kind of life. It’s not explained in the movie, but probably in Strieber’s novel, but they seem to be able to “interact” with one another. Perhaps, psychically.
We get to know John for about forty-minutes of screen time, but that forty-minutes is quality. He learns of the existence of this Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) a researcher whose specialty just so happens to be anything related to aging, natural and unnatural. But this encounter leads no where, for Roberts doesn’t believe the aged John was just a day ago a man of thirty. But she comes to believe after a two-hour wait in her waiting room ages him into an obvious old man.
Our second tragedy of the movie revolves around a fourteen-year-old neighbor, Alice Cavender (Beth Ehlers), Miriam is teaching music to. Desperation leads him to kill the girl thinking either her blood will help him or that in his old age he can’t bring down healthy prey and sees her as an easier mark. How do these vampires get their blood? They both were Ankh necklaces, which are really sheathed blades. When hunger strikes they use their inhuman strength and their blades to open up a carotid artery. It’s pretty much that simple. Drained bodies are then disposed of in a convenient in-house incinerator.
Miriam is heartbroken at the death of Alice, and just as heartbroken at the “death” of John, but none of that stops her from setting her sights on Sarah as the new companion. Problem is she’s married to another researcher, Tom (Cliff De Young), which will lead to yet another tragedy in the final act. Miriam seduces and turns Sarah and the outcome from someone who doesn’t believe and refuses to feed is about the same as they are in Near Dark, pain, the shakes, the sweats, classic withdrawal symptoms to the average person. Her husband is her first victim, and her last. There’s nothing but tragedy on display in this flick as Sarah chooses death rather than be a vampire and Miriam’s lovers choose revenge. This is where Miriam suffers a fatal fall from her staircase and in her death throes ages to a corpse. It’s then revealed what life her lovers had in their desiccated corpses was dependent on her. With her dead, they crumble to ashes.
If you know the Scott brothers (Ridley Scott was Tom’s brother) their movies are told through stylish visuals and The Hunger drips with it, which is one of the reasons I’ve always liked the movie. Aside from the aforementioned famous faces, there are others, but in smaller roles. A young Dan Hedaya (Blood Simple, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, The Addams Family, Commando, just to name a few) is Lieutenant Allegrezza, the detective looking into the disappearance of Alice, while Willem Dafoe (do I even need to list his movies?) and John Pankow (Too Live And Die In LA, Mad About You series) appear for a split second as guys mildly harassing Sarandon in a phone booth. Ann Magnuson (Making Mr. Right, Anything But Love series) also appears, but for a little bit longer, in the opening as a victim.
I recently learned Strieber wrote two sequels to his Hunger novel: The Last Vampire (2001) and Lilith’s Dream: A Tale of the Vampire Life (2003).
On August 18th Warner Archive is set to release The Hunger on a long overdue blu-ray.
This is the third Warner Archive blu I have reviewed and like the previous two the transfer is gorgeous. Clarity and color are supreme. Details like skin texture and body sweat are extremely potent to behold. To say this is an upgrade from Warner’s 2004 DVD is an understatement. If you haven’t gone blu yet, this would be reason #3 to do it.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio commentary with Director Tony Scott and Actress Susan Sarandon (ported over from the DVD)
The only thing I don’t like about the movie is the epilogue. I remember when I first saw it being extremely confused, since the movie seems to conclude with the death of Sarah and Miriam, so how does Sarah end up alive and well in the final shot looking as if she’s now a vampire and Miriam is now in a crate in the basement? Sarandon and Scott explain in the commentary the studio thought this was going to be a big hit so they wanted a reason to do a sequel, and had Scott tack on this ending where Sarah could be the focus of the next movie.
There was once a Showtime series called, The Hunger (1997-2000). Despite Ridley and Tony Scott executive producing it this was an in-name-only show. I’ve never understood the logic behind creating an in-name-only series to a movie. There have been two others I know of: Friday The 13th: The Series (’87-’90) and Poltergeist: The Legacy (’96-’99), neither of which have any direct connection to their movie counterparts and neither did the one based on The Hunger. By the way The Hunger series was mostly erotic horror and I did like some of the episodes. Terrance Stamp ended up being the Rod Serling of the series, but David Bowie took over after the first season.
In 2009 news hit the web that Warner was planning on doing a remake. So far there haven’t been any updates since then.