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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Hunger: The Complete First Season
The Hunger: The Complete First Season
Entertainment One // Unrated // June 2, 2009
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 14, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:
 
In 1997 cable premium channel Showtime decided to launch a dark fantasy anthology series.  Labeling it The Hunger, the show was edgier than most shows found on network TV or even basic cable.  Dealing with ghouls, monsters, and vampires, the program had a built in audience.  Throw in a lot of sex in each episode and teleplays based on stories by some established SF and horror writers and the show apparently couldn't miss.  Unfortunately it only lasted two seasons however, and never got a lot of buzz even in SF and horror circles.  Was that because it was just marketed incorrectly and never found an audience or was the show just not that good.  It turns out that it was probably a mixture of the two.  Now E1 Entertainment has released the first season on DVD, so fans can find out for themselves.
 


Hosted this first season by Terence Stamp, each episode of The Hunger involves a tale of someone wanting something desperately.  Not only food, or blood, the show revolves around people yearning for love, power, or sex.  In Plain Brown Envelope a woman wants some adventure in her life, along with a story for her editor, so she sticks out her thumb and starts hitchhiking.  In The River of Night's Dreaming a convict hungers for freedom and she sees her chance when the van that's transporting her crashes.  She finds refuge in the house of an old lady, which might not offer the safety she was hoping for.
 
It's an interesting concept, and one that is executed with a lot of style.  All of the episodes are gorgeous to look at.  The sets and decorations along with the lighting and direction create wonderful locations that do a great job of capturing the emotions of the story.  From the dark and gritty underground rave to a high class French restaurant the places look and feel authentic.  The atmosphere of the show is a slightly dark and moody and it works extremely well with the tales they are telling.
 


The flaw with the show is that the stories, while very intriguing in the set up and execution, rarely deliver the good in the conclusion.  Like a Saturday Night Live skit where all the jokes are told in the beginning that ends without a punch line, when a good portion of these episodes end viewers are left thinking "that's it?" 
 
A good example of this occurs in the episode The Swords.  Mick, the heir to a large cosmetic company, who has no interest in the business what so ever, is sent to London for a conference.  There he starts hanging out with a couple of gay men who take him to a club that has an unusual floor show.  At about 2 AM the stage is cleared and a beautiful woman, Musidora, is brought out.  The MC takes a long steel sword and slowly pushes it into her stomach.  The sword emerges from her back, without a drop of blood spilling.  The MC removes the sword and offers to let audience members "poke her", for a small fee of course.   The next day the MC finds Mick and basically pimps out Musidora.  After money changes hands it's arranged that she'll arrive at his hotel room that evening where he can do "whatever he wants." 
 


Spoiler Warning
 
That evening Mick and Musidora have sex, and they start seeing each other.  Things are going well and Musidora eventually reveals that she doesn't feel anything when she's skewered since she's under a spell.  When the lovely woman professes her love for Mick however, he feigns being asleep.  He doesn't want to get tied down to one woman after all.  That night she gets on the stage to perform just as Mick discovers a large quantity of her blood on his sheets.   He rushes to the venue, as the girl with a sad look on her face nods her okay to be run through.  This time however there is blood and she dies.  The end.
 
End Spoilers
 
While the opening was entrancing, the conclusion doesn't pack the emotional wallop it should.  It feels like a cheat and that the writer had to end the story quickly.  There are a lot of episodes like that, where the end feels very rushed to the detriment of the show.  With only half an hour to work with, the stories have to be tightly written.  Since this was originally shown on a cable network, there's sex in every episodes too.  (Frontal female nudity appears in just about ever episode.)  Sometimes the sex fits into story well, and other times it doesn't, but in every case it eats up precious minutes that could be used to wrap the story up in a more satisfying way. 
 


The DVD:

 

Audio:
 
The stereo soundtrack isn't that exciting, but I really wasn't expecting anything much from a TV show from the 90's.  The dialog is clear and there is no distortion, but the soundstage isn't used as much as it could be.  This show sounds fine, but not spectacular.
 
Video:
 
The full frame video is about average for a show from a decade ago.  The image is a bit soft and there's a little bit of detail lost in shadows, but it's not too bad.  There are some digital artifacts, aliasing is present and banding appears too.  The prints are generally in good shape, though a few spots do appear through the season.
 
Extras:
 
The only extra is "Inside the Hunger" a half hour look behind the scenes of the show.  It appears to have been made as a promotion for the second season and doesn't really talk about the episodes included in this set.  Not really all the informative or interesting, I guess it's better than nothing.
 
Final Thoughts:
 
The Hunger is a case of style over substance.  It's a very pretty show to watch and the stories all start out well and really grab the viewers.  Unfortunately they have a bit of trouble coming up with satisfying conclusions to many of the tales, but even these, while a bit of a let down, are engaging to watch.  Fans of dark fantasy should check this series out.  Recommended.
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