Model Hunger’s approach to the question of beauty is so head scratching and heavy-handed that the message collapses under the weight.
Model Hunger is an overblown statement on what beauty means that is out of its lurid mind. However, the film knows how crazy it is and gleefully indulges in all of the bloody shenanigans and over-the-top Southern accents.
The film follows old Southern belle Ginny (Lynn Lowry), who has had a hard time breaking through in the modeling business, falling to the wayside of women her pig-headed photographer considers “thinner.” She eventually falls out of modeling, living a secluded life. However, rejection has taken a toll on Ginny and, as a result, she leads a double life as a crazed, cannibalistic killer, with her prey being thin, young women. Suspicious disappearances draw the attention of her miserable, new neighbor Debbie (Tiffany Shepis), who will stop at nothing to find out what Ginny is up to.
The film is the directorial debut of Debbie Rochon, who is best known for her work in independent horror films. What follows here is a combination of Y-movie production values (the Y stands for YouTube) and over-the-top storytelling and acting that can’t help but demand your eyes. Our victims are ripped apart in gruesome, yet gnarly ways, with the bloody results being equal parts disturbing yet jaw-dropping. Our hapless victims run the gamut of stereotypes, from the malevolent cheerleader who could not give a you-know-what to her innocent squad member who just wants to do the right thing.
However, all the craziness can’t touch the rocket-to-the-moon performance of Lowry, who embraces all of Ginny’s quirks. On the outside, she puts her hair in a bun and wears a sunny, Sunday church dress. She’s all the Southern stereotypes mixed in one. However, when she needs to go psycho, she loosens the restraints and goes off like an un-caged animal. There is not a stratosphere her performance does not reach. When it comes to naming the best part of this glorious mess, it is Lowry for the win.
The most “grounded” performance comes from Shepis, who is genuinely miserable throughout the film. There’s a sense that she cannot stand her loving but messy husband Sal (Carmine Capobianco), but their relationship does develop. Her initial skepticism to Ginny is immediate: like as soon as she steps inside her new house immediate. It does not make that much sense, but why try to push for logic in a film where the only television show that seems to exist is a shopping show where actress Suzi Lorraine dons a fat suit and points at supermodel magazines with disdain while a drag queen models plus-size lingerie? You can stand to let logic sit aside right now.
That television show in question is called Suzi’s Secret, which plays into whatever ludicrous message the film tries to portray. I would say that the message is that any body size is beautiful, but even that gets confused. The victims in here are portrayed as unlikable, yet our poor villain who was cast aside by the heartless modeling industry is, well, a killer. Suzi’s Secret has extreme contempt for supermodels. The message, which is communicated through the characters, is a mishmash of preachy acceptance sermons but also harsh insults of other body sizes. Model Hunger’s approach to the question of beauty is so head scratching and heavy-handed that the message collapses under the weight.
But, who cares? Model Hunger is truly at its best bad self when the bloodshed gets going and the actors portray their characters with wonderfully above and beyond campiness. It’s a midnight movie in the making. | Bill Loellke