98 min | 2014 | Griff Furst | No Rating
Synopsis: “While researching an urban legend on feral children, three friends find themselves trapped in an abandoned high school, where they are confronted with an evil more sinister than the legend itself.” (imdb.com)
Review: Starve whets the palate but never satiates the horror lover’s appetite.
The backstory: Starve is set in Freedom, Florida and largely based on people being sucked into massive sinkholes in the disaster of 1981. [i] These people (aka sinkers) were left behind to fend for themselves inside the sinkholes. We learn of one particular family who was forced to make difficult choices in order to live down in the sinkhole. This family was failed both by the environment as well as by society when the ground gave way and the townspeople left them to waste away. Once they reached “freedom”, this particular family decided that the best way to exorcise their demons was through forcing others to make similarly hard decisions. You quickly get a sense of what those tough choices are going to be by the film’s opening quote “I want to end global hunger by feeding half the world’s starving people to the other half”[ii]
The twist of fate: Beck (Bobby Campo), his girlfriend Candace (Mariah Bonner), and his brother Jiminey (Dave Davis) travel to Freedom, Florida in search of the “sinkers”. Beck hopes to get rich by making a graphic novel about the urban legend of feral children living within these sinkholes. While on their journey they stick their noses where they don’t belong and they become fodder for their own real life horror story. Candace aptly comments about Beck’s graphic novel ripping off The Hills Have Eyes when in reality the whole movie rips off Saw (2004), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), and maybe a little People Under the Stairs (1991).
The nuts and bolts: The film has really redeeming qualities. The film’s investigation of what people are capable of when they are pushed to the brink is rich with possibilities. The sets and scenarios within Freedom High School make the most out of the lighting and are filled with tension. Furthermore, the main characters (Campo and Bonner) do a great job acting and creating believable on screen chemistry. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough. It’s a perfect example of right notion, wrong motion. The idea was there, but the execution was not. Perhaps it was the pacing or bits of backstory where it is not needed, but it never comes into fruition.
Interestingly, there is an underlying narrative. Whether conscious or not, there is a sub-story involving Beck and Candace’s unborn child. Candace finds out she is with child but does not disclose it to her boyfriend. The couple is later paralleled by the marriage between Ezrin and his wife who when times get rough, they sacrificed their child. At one point Ezrin brings up the pregnancy and suggests that if he pushes Beck to the point of starvation, he would choose himself over the well-being of the child. While there are setbacks between Beck and Candace in the arena of food, Beck demonstrates he is worthy by providing for his girlfriend and unborn child. Simultaneously, the film sets up Candace as now having something worth fighting for, beyond her own self-preservation. After solidifying their worth as parents, Candace and Beck are able to escape and potentially raise their child. Is this a commentary on working class vs middle class parenting, is it about abortion, you will have to make up your mind on that one. I can say with confidence, Starve verifies its participation in the genre by following the well-established formula. The great American family was destabilized by Beck chasing easy money and urban legends. They fell into a lower class society and were punished for their boundary transgression. Only after proving their worth as parents and reinstating the middle class nuclear family can Beck and Candace escape and live happily ever after.
[i] Not so far-fetched when you consider the massive sink hole that actually did pop up in Winter Park, Florida 1981 http://pubs.usgs.gov/ha/ha730/ch_g/jpeg/G062.jpeg And truth be told Florida is one of the most susceptible states when it comes to sinkholes http://water.usgs.gov/edu/sinkholes.html
[ii] Jarod Kintz “I Want”