The Unicorn Scale: The Hunger

By Bernie Marchand

July 14, 2020

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If you haven’t treated yourself to this vintage erotic thriller, I HIGHLY suggest that you do. Not only does The Hunger (1983) treat you to fabulous '80s culture in full swing— the outfits, the music, the hair— but we also get an actual bi playing in a bi movie. If you love, as the original trailer describes, “the timeless beauty of Catherin Deneuve, the cruel elegance of David Bowie, and the open sensuality of Susan Sarandon” then this is the movie for you. 

There will be spoilers ahead. Also if you are unfamiliar with The Unicorn Scale, here's a quick breakdown of how it works

What I Liked:

There is so much to like in this movie. I can’t decide if this is an example of truly artistic and unique or borderline B filmmaking but either way, it’s a cult classic that is sure to ignite the fire in the right type of fan. I would say that type of fan also appreciates Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Interview with a Vampire, Vampire Diaries— see the link here? Vampires! What is it about vampires that screams bi? I guess when you have eternity, it’s only natural to have lovers across the gender spectrum. The Hunger does not explicitly say any character in this movie is a vampire, or draw too heavily on traditional vampire lore— we make this connection as the viewer. This teasing heightens its mystery and allure, just like the exquisite Miriam (Catherine Deneuve). 

We open in a hot, hot, hot nightclub with a classic Bauhaus jam blasting as our two vampires, John (David Bowie) and Miriam stalk their prey. They engage in some kinky group play, just in case you thought they might be too conventional. We witness the deep love between Miriam and John, but things start to change as Miriam meets and falls for scientist Sarah (Susan Sarandon). There is instant chemistry and heat between the two women. Miriam hopes to make Sarah her new companion, but Sarah isn’t warm to the idea. I won’t give everything away but I can promise you will be entertained, in either a delighted or incredulous sort of way.

The movie borders on horror, so we don’t see any character walk away into the sunset. But we do get titillating sex scenes and that twisted, eternal love that vampires portray oh so well. This movie deeply resonated with early goth subcultures and gained a cult following. It, unsurprisingly, has mixed reviews on Rotten Tomatoes due to its salacious content and its unconventional pacing, but its fans are tried and true and you can even find some screenings at independent movie theaters.

What I Didn’t Like:

Honestly, there is not much I do not like about this movie. I’m a huge cult film fan, but nothing is perfect. Some may say this movie is slow, and I could agree with that. I took my ex to see this movie at an outdoor movie night and he fell asleep. Additionally, the word bisexual is never used. This isn't altogether surprising considering the word vampire is not really used either. Much of this film alludes rather than spells out and that is part of its charm. At the same time, it is frustrating that both female characters are obviously bi and nobody mentions it. If only we lived in a world where it was that easy…

Additionally, there are some problems with the main character, Miriam. Miriam is a smoking hot lady vampire people fall in love with left and right. She is intelligent, graceful, cultured but also cold and cruel. It’s noteworthy she has a rich backstory and is multidimensional, but the viewer is not meant to empathize with her. Ultimately, she is portrayed as the villain, as evil. In fact, she embodies a lot of the negative bi tropes that we see in media. She certainly doesn’t have a happy ending, and as a fellow bi, it doesn’t feel fair. I know that this movie is a horror, and those don’t normally end with unicorns and rainbows but on some level, I want those two crazy kids to work it out.

The Rating:

I am so tempted to give this movie the full four unicorns because I truly love it. It’s an '80s cult classic that will be a perfect time capsule forever. However, it doesn’t shine when it comes to bi-representation. There is no mention of bisexuality and both bi characters never mention it or have fulfilling endings. It’s not the end of the world, both bi characters are complicated, and have a lot to offer but it could have made even more of a splash if it had thoughtfully given due to both characters. That being said, if you’re in the mood for a dark, quirky flick featuring David Bowie in his prime, do yourself a favor and watch it.

3 unicorns

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