The Girl with the Hungry Eyes

It must be high season for female vampires, for "The Girl With the Hungry Eyes" is the third recent pic -- following Michael Almereyda's "Nadja" and Abel Ferrara's "The Addiction"-- to revise the time-honored genre by centering on an alluring femme. Significantly inferior to its companions, new take is too allegorical, a bit pretentious and way overlong.

With:
Louise - Christina Fulton
Carlos - Isaac Turner
Johnny - Leon Herbert
Bud - Bret Carr
Mandy - Susan Rhodes

It must be high season for female vampires, for “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes” is the third recent pic — following Michael Almereyda’s “Nadja” and Abel Ferrara’s “The Addiction”– to revise the time-honored genre by centering on an alluring femme. Significantly inferior to its companions, new take is too allegorical, a bit pretentious and way overlong. After a three-week midnight run at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, pic heads straight to video, where it might be appreciated by the genre’s hardcore aficionados.

Dedicated to the novelist Fritz Leiber, whose short story inspired the film, narrative begins in 1937, when its heroine, Louise (ChristinaFulton), a top fashion model and owner of the Tides hotel, kills herself after realizing the cheating and other shenanigans of her beloved photographer-fiancee. Jumping to the present, most of the story is set within the now derelict building, which used to be the lively center of the city’s bustling art deco district. The place’s old spirit continues to haunt Louise, who returns determined to restore the hotel — and avenge herself.

Used as a metaphorical creature, Louise terrorizes all the men who objectify her — until she meets Carlos (Isaac Turner), a Cuban refugee trying to make a living as a photographer. A peculiar relationship based on physical attraction, obsession and power games evolves, with some irritatingly predictable results.

The best thing to be said about “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes” is that, unlike most low-budget vampire pix, its intent is serious and nonexploitative. Nonetheless, tale is burdened with a metaphorical structure and pregnant symbolism, suggesting that human beings are like desperate vampires when it comes to their need to be loved and respected.

Lacking an engaging plot or intriguing characters, first-time director Jacobs goes heavy on dark mood and eerie ambience — to little effect. Shot in Miami’s South Beach, brooding effort plods along monotonously at an elephantine pace. Running time of theatrical version is unjustifiably 15 minutes longer than the video edition.

As a revisionist item, pic not only lacks an interesting angle, it also fails to deliver genre’s most basic thrills — and fun.

The Girl with the Hungry Eyes

Production: A Merton Shapiro and Cassian Elwes presentation of a Kastenbaum Films/Smoking Gun production. Produced by Michael and Seth Kastenbaum. Executive producers, David Niven Jr., Cassian Elwes. Directed, written by Jon Jacobs, based on the short story by Fritz Leiber, additional story and dialogue by Craig Robins, Christina Fulton.

Crew: Camera (color), Gary Tieche; editor, Jason Rosenfeld; music, Paul Inder, Oscar O'Lochlainn; art direction, Tony Parras; costume design, Evelina Diaz; makeup, Susan Dextersound, George Lockwood; associate producers, Edward Bates, Holly MacConkey; assistant director, Douglas Bruce; casting, Jeffrey Passero. Reviewed at Royal Theater, L.A., Feb. 3, 1995. Running time: 100 MIN.

With: Louise - Christina Fulton
Carlos - Isaac Turner
Johnny - Leon Herbert
Bud - Bret Carr
Mandy - Susan Rhodes

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