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.
There’s a saying. It goes a little something like this. “You are what you eat.” This phrase is meant to get people to eat healthier. If you eat fattening foods like hamburgers and fast food junk, you’ll end up being fat. That kind of thing. Sometimes it is taken more literally. In horror movies, you are what you eat can take on a different meaning. Cannibalism is always a good source of scares and terrors. Then there are movies like Starve, portraying how a lack of eating can lead to crazy things.
Starve came out in 2014. It followed Candice (Mariah Bonner) and her boyfriend Beck (Bobby Campo) as they travelled to Freedom, Florida to do research for Beck’s new graphic novel. It was an abandoned town with stories of sinkholes and feral people. The couple was kidnapped while exploring the town and locked inside an abandoned school for the amusement of a man playing principal. In this school, people were starved to a point where they would fight to the death for a meal. Candice and Beck tried to escape from this new life that they were living.
In the most basic terms, Starve was a feral version of any tournament based fighting movie. Instead of having structure to the bouts, it was simply the principal’s decision on who fought who and when the fight occurred. The battles themselves were brutal. As the principal said throughout the movie, when people are starved, they are desperate and will do anything to get food. Survival mode kicks in. The human body needs sustenance. People will kill for the smallest amount of food to survive another day. The fights were more intense because of this.
The emotional heft of Starve came through the couple. Their desire to find each other and escape pushed the story forward, leading to each new layer unfolding. They were fighting for each other as much as they were fighting for survival. They wanted to be together at any cost. Candice and Beck did whatever they had to do to be together, which added to the brutality of the fights they took part in. This relationship was captivating.
During the first half of Starve, the villainous principal was only heard as a voice through the PA system in the abandoned school, and only seen from behind. This gave a great, powerful presence to the man. The audience was able to experience his evil deeds in the same way as the protagonists. When his face was shown in the second half of the movie and he became a physical presence in the story, it took away the mysterious evil element. It put a face to something that was spookier in your imagination and lessened the experience. It is more effective to have the man unseen until a crucial story moment than to just show him and make him a part of the story, especially when the first half of the movie has him playing the unseen predator.
That said, Cooper Huckabee did an excellent job playing the principal, Ezrin. His voice work in the first half of the movie was foreboding enough to make the danger feel real. Just with his vocals, he was able to seem a calm and collected unstable. When he became a physical presence in the movie, he seemed menacing through his mannerisms and dishevelled look. He filled the bad guy role well.
Starve is a movie that worked fairly well. It’s a good movie that could be great with a few tweaks. There is an intriguing concept with a strong emotional core that makes it an entertaining watch. Other movies tackle similar themes and subjects with better skill. That doesn’t mean that Starve doesn’t stand on its own as a good movie. It has great moments that make it worth watching. It isn’t the best but it’s still pretty good.