The Hunger is a 1983 English language horror film. It is the story of a bizarre love triangle between a doctor (Susan Sarandon) who specializes in sleep and aging research, and a stylish vampire couple (Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie).
The film is based on the 1981 novel of the same name by Whitley Strieber, with a screenplay by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas. The Hunger was director Tony Scott's first feature film. The cinematography was by Stephen Goldblatt.
The Hunger was not particularly well-received on its release, and was attacked by many critics for being heavy on atmosphere and visuals but slow on pace and plot. Roger Ebert, for example described it as "an agonizingly bad vampire movie". However, the film soon found a cult following that responded to its dark, glamorous atmosphere. The Bauhaus song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" plays over the introductory credits and beginning. The film is popular with some segments of the goth subculture, and spawned the short-lived TV anthology series of the same name.
Before long, John begins to experience the price of his eternal life... human companions of Miriam are doomed to suffer a living death. Where Miriam herself is truly ageless, her human lovers, only experienced prolonged youth for a century or two before they begin to age rapidly, eventually deteriorating into withered, corpse-like figures. The true horror of this situation is that these vampire/human hybrids age but cannot die. John begins to age rapidly and seeks out the help of Dr. Sarah Roberts (Sarandon), who specializes in the study of aging disorders, hoping she will be able to help restore his health.
When John visits Sarah's clinic, she dismisses his claims of rapid aging as delusional. She leaves him to sit in the waiting room, where he ages decades in just a few hours. Sarah is appalled when she sees what has happened to John, but it is too late to help him. The now-ancient man returns home and begs Miriam to kill him. She tells him that she will not, and overcome by the suffering of old age he collapses. Miriam places him in a coffin in the attic alongside several of her other former lovers, all of whom are still alive.
Sarah, intrigued by the medical miracle of John's rapid aging, comes looking for him at his home. Miriam decides to take Sarah as her new companion. She seduces the doctor and, after having sex with her, cuts herself and Sarah. They drink one another's blood, initiating Sarah's transformation into a vampire.
Sarah returns home to her boyfriend Tom (Cliff DeYoung), not realizing what Miriam has done to her. She begins to feel increasingly distracted, and experiences a hunger that cannot be sated even with raw steak. Sarah returns to Miriam's house and demands an explanation.
Miriam attempts to initiate Sarah in the necessities of life as a vampire, but Sarah is repulsed by the thought of subsisting on human blood. Still reeling from the effects of her vampiric transformation, Sarah allows Miriam to put her to bed in a guest room. When Tom comes looking for Sarah, Miriam sends him up to find her. Sarah, crazed with hunger, kills Tom and drinks his blood.
Once she has finished feeding, Sarah goes downstairs to find Miriam, who is pleased that Sarah seems to have finally come around. Whoever or whatever Miriam may be, she has been around almost as long as time itself, taking lovers and feeding as early at the Egyptian era. Miriam makes it clear that she is unstoppable and intoxicated by her invincibility. Yet Sarah, overcome with grief at murdering Tom, has decided that she will not continue being a vampire. Sarah discovers that her tie with Miriam has exposed a mysterious vulnerability in Miriam's power. While kissing, Sarah cuts her own throat. This powerful sacrifice reverses the vampirism in a way that even Miriam herself thought wasn't possible. Mysteriously, and unintentionally, Miriam loses her powers over to Sarah. Miriam carries Sarah upstairs to the attic, hoping to conceal Sarah along with the rest of her conquests. Yet Miriam's fate has now been sealed; Stripped of her powers, Miriam is helpless against her former lovers, including John, are now able to rise from their coffins. It appears that the shrivelled beings (still desperately in love with Miriam) attempt to embrace her. Repulsed, Miriam falls down the stairs as they project their own misery into her. Her former lovers are now freed of the curse and crumble into dust. Miriam is punished for her crimes, and as she screams, turns into an ancient, shrivelled body who will herself be forced to live out eternity as a living corpse.
As the film draws to a close, a real estate agent is showing the deserted townhouse to prospective buyers.
The final scene provides a twist-ending. Sarah is now in London, standing on the balcony of a chic apartment tower, in the company of an attractive young man and woman. She's serenely admiring the gorgeous view as dusk falls. From a draped coffin in a storage room, Miriam repeatedly screams Sarah's name. Sarah marks the birth of the new vampire in the mold of Miriam, with Miriam representing her first conquest, certainly to be followed by more.
The movie neglects to explain the difference between Miriam and her lovers, and why she continually outlives them, one of the more common questions posed by viewers. According to the novel, Miriam is of a species that evolved separately from humans, and is quite probably the last of her kind. They have an indefinite life span, with Miriam herself being many thousands of years old.
Miriam's lovers, including John and Sarah, are regular humans that have been transformed after receiving a transfusion of Miriam's blood (or an ingested exchange, as in the movie). Their physiology remains human, but Miriam's blood takes over their circulatory system, repairs tissue and offers resistance to disease and aging. Unfortunately, the effect only lasts a number of centuries, before the human tissue ages rapidly. The individual remains alive and aware, despite being trapped in a decrepit corpse.
As is the case with most movie adaptations of novels, the story was changed for successful cinematic adaptation, while some changes are substantive, the film makers adapted the plot to fit its new narrative format, creating a subtly different narrative that retained the story of the novel:
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