I love The Hunger. I also love David Bowie, so my fondness for the movie was probably colored by that love.
That being said, this film has a very interesting take on vampire mythology, and stands pretty well alone in its approach to the subject. Well, the Wurdulaks in Black Sabbath may only feed off their loved ones, but that’s still a step apart from the Blaylocks.
Miriam Blaylock (Deneuve) is a vampire from ancient Egypt whose lovers become vampires with her… but it’s temporary. The movie is coy about whether the spell just wears off after a few centuries, or if she wavers in her affections the magic goes away. It’s like the Greek myth about Aphrodite and Cicadus. She gave him immortality, but forgot eternal youth, so after a few centuries she couldn’t bear him any longer and turned him into a cicada. Except with Miriam’s lovers, the aging catches up with them all at once, and she shuts them in coffins in the attic of her mansion.
But they’re still alive. Technically, everyone is destroyed when Susan Sarandon’s character chooses suicide over life as a vampire (it doesn’t work– instead of killing herself Miriam and all her lovers die). But the best scene is when time catches up with the Bowie character, John Blaylock. In fact, the scene where it happens is so good (in terms of special effects and pathos) it would be up much higher on the list, but for the fact that he’s still alive when Miriam closes the lid.
Insomnia is the telltale sign that the expiration date is near. John goes to Sarandon’s character, a doctor, for help. Thinking he’s nuts, she leaves him in the waiting room for a few hours while he ages a good eighty years. Horrified, she promises to help, but John returns home. Thinking that maybe blood will slow the process he attacks a woman on rollerblades, but is unable to subdue her. At the mansion, his music pupil, Alice, is waiting for him.
They talk, and she comments on his sadness before asking if he is John’s father. John says, “Forgive me” and stabs her to death with his ankh and drinks her blood. It does no good. Miriam cannot bring herself to kiss him like she did the day before, and shuts him in a coffin with all her “old loves.” It’s a scene of utter desolation. As romantic as the rest of the film can be about life as a vampire (one has to admit, Miriam has it pretty good), this scene illustrates perfectly why one would prefer death to living death.
It recalls one of Bela Lugosi’s lesser-known lines from Dracula, “To die, to be really dead… that must be glorious!”
Well, yes. In this instance, anyway.