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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 a loose adaptation of 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.

The film was screened out of competition at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.


Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) is a beautiful yet dangerous immortal creature that preys on the lifeforce of humans, inviting a chosen few to be her human lovers, promising them eternal life... with a price. As the film begins, her current companion is John (David Bowie), a talented cellist she married in 18th century France. In the present day, they live together in an elegant New Yorkmarker townhouse posing as a Goth Rock couple.

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. On his way home, the increasingly frail John tries to approach several men to stab them with a diminutive pendant blade and suck out their blood, but either the opportunity is lost or the victim is stronger than him and he has to run away. When he gets home he finds his music pupil, the androgynous botticellian teen beauty Alice Cavender, practicing the violin. In a last desperate attempt to revert the non-stop aging the now-ancient John grabs the girl from behind and stabs her in the throat, but her blood doesn't save him from decay. When Miriam comes home he begs her 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 as 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, and 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 is completely out of character and was only tacked on (post-production) to allow for the possibility for a sequel (Tony Scott and Susan Sarandon discuss this in the commentary on the DVD—Sarandon, at least, is highly critical of this 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.


Behind the scenes

The meaning of the film's ambiguous ending has been a subject of some debate. It differs from that of Strieber's novel, which has Miriam move on to a new city and take up with a new lover. The studio insisted upon the change, feeling that audiences would want to see Deneuve's character punished. In the film's DVD commentary, both Scott and Sarandon express some dissatisfaction with the ending (Scott originaly wanted to keep the original ending in the book as the ending for the film.)

Susan Sarandon talks candidly about the lesbian seduction scene in the documentary The Celluloid Closet.

Explanation of the difference between Miriam and her lovers

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.

Differences between the movie and the novel

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:

  • In the novel, Miriam has been studying Dr. Roberts' anti-aging research long before the story's narrative begins, with the aim of avoiding having John die like her other lovers before. Miriam had not told John that he would eventually age and die, but rather led him to believe that he would be truly immortal. This leads to a subplot where, shortly after John discovers the truth, he escapes from Miriam and plots his revenge on her for misleading him.

  • One major difference between the plots in the movie and the novel is that in the novel it is Miriam, rather than John, who approaches Sarah at a sleep clinic, where Sarah researches aging (Sarah is a specialist on sleep disorders). Rather than being rebuffed by Sarah as John was in the movie, Miriam is admitted as a priority case, claiming that she suffers from night terrors (a form of nightmare), and Sarah is assigned to assess her case. It is while under observation that Miriam begins her direct seduction of Sarah, and many of Miriam's physiological characteristics are explained while Sarah and Tom's scientific team are observing her. John otherwise spends much of the novel feeding and plotting his revenge against Miriam for leading him to believe he was truly immortal.

  • In the novel, Miriam spikes Sarah's coffee (sherry is used in the movie), and transfuses a portion of her own blood directly into Sarah's bloodstream while she is unconscious, using a custom-made device, as opposed to Sarah and Miriam simply ingesting one another's blood as in the movie.

  • The subplot of the investigation into the disappearance of Alice Cavender by Lieutenant Allegrezza did not appear in the novel. Miriam receives a phone call from Alice's father informing her of the girl's disappearance, causing Miriam to realize that John had fed on her, but the plotline is not developed further.

  • In the novel, the escape of Miriam's captive lovers is John's attempt at revenge for the aforementioned deception about his true nature, hoping to use them to attack and overwhelm Miriam. However, Miriam, having anticipated this move earlier, times the situation so that Tom is ambushed by the cadavers when he attempts to retrieve Sarah from Miriam's house. Tom escapes the house, after which Miriam locks John in his coffin. Tom later returns for a second confrontation resulting in his death, which plays out much as it does in the movie.

  • At the end of the novel, Sarah attempts suicide as she does in the movie, but the loss of blood effectively "kills" her, trapping her in her lifeless body, much like Miriam's lovers. Miriam encases her in her own coffin amongst her collection, and leaves New Yorkmarker to avoid potential investigation into the disappearances of Sarah and Tom. She settles in San Francisco and starts a new life.


On 23 September 2009 Warner Bros. announced it planned a remake of the movie with the screenplay written by Whitley Strieber.

See also


  1. The Hunger - Chicago Sun Times, May 3, 1983
  2. The Hunger Remake Coming From Warner Bros.
  3. Gersh Agency books Whitley Strieber

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