Featuring: Elle “Maleficent” Fanning , Jena “Sucker Punch Malone , Keanu “The Matrix” Reeves
Director: Nicolas “Bronson” Winding Refn
Writers: Nicolas “Bronsons Winding Refn , Mary “‘Preacher’” Laws & Polly “Eleanor” Stenham
When I was a horny young pup just looking for a wet spot to stick my prick into, my criteria for what I desired in a sheet staining partner was a very simple three point plan – looks, looks, and looks. Physical attraction was all that mattered to me, as it is for most impressionable post-pubescent types looking to make an “impression” of their own into/onto someone. Much like tickets to a Don Johnson concert, my virginity was something I had an impossible time giving away. The few young ladies I shared the halls of academia with in high school that I had any interest in were either already dedicated to other lads, or had turned down my romantic advances faster than a stepdad turns down the thermostat when somebody puts it over 60. After reaching the ripe old age of legality known as 18, I would eventually find myself a finely figured female who was more than happy to commence with my deflowering (or, in my case, my weeding), and she and I are well on our way to the 17th annual celebration of our first date come the next Krampusnacht Eve. Happy pre-anniversary, dear!
As I’ve aged (and unholy Hel have I!), my taste in women has evolved well past favorite shapes of flesh and into a Twilight Zone-ian preference for dimensions not just of sight and sound, but of mind. Not strictly book smarts neither, but ladies with more esoteric tastes that match mine own. Namely, bad horror movies, sketch comedy shows, and morbid humor peppered liberally with sarcasm and contempt for humanity. Attempts at such relations haven’t always worked out for the best, but whatever doesn’t kill us gives us fun stories to tell our court appointed lawyers, right!? What does this have to do with today’s “Ladies Night!” installment, The Neon Demon? Not a shit ton. Much the opposite, in fact. Today’s feature is actually about physical beauty, and the obsession some have with not only getting it, but retaining it in the face of the unconquerable hellbeast known as Age-zilla.
Given that my looks have been known to make gargoyles cry tears of gasoline (I swear that’s how that church fire started!), I’d know nothing about that. Instead of relating to our tale, I’m just gonna let my eyeballs go gonzo over all the wonky visuals and my ears get made sweet love to by the supersexy swingin’ sounds of its synthy score!
Today’s movie is sadly not the sequel to Neon Maniacs we’ve been waiting 30 years for. It is, however, brought to us by Nicholas Winding Refn (director of Drive), Amazon Studios, and the letter ‘Q’. Despite my recent review for the Amazon Pilot Season episode of “The Tick”, I swear on Horus’ right eye that I’m not being paid to promote their productions! Those dickards won’t even give me a free trial month of Prime at this point, let alone actual capital compensation to type up piss & moan articles. Sorry to say, folks, but the mildly amusing musings of a Death God ain’t worth two farts to the mighty Reaper of Brick & Mortar Stores. Fuck it. As Chris Pratt said, “It’s important to make your big mistakes in relative obscurity” anyway. If this site were popular enough to grab anyone’s attention, it would ruin all the fun of the chase for a lot of bail bondsmen (and bail bondswomen) out there!
The Neon Demon stars Dakota Fanning’s younger sister Elle, who continues her efforts in making a name for herself with a role that’s meatier than just playing a younger version of one of Big D’s parts. Since the movie’s plot is little more than your basic tale of glamorous industries seducing innocent youth just to use them, abuse them, suck them dry, and throw them away like used condoms once they can no longer pull off the “jailbait couture” look, said movie also requires your basic “small town, big dreams” victim to consume the soul of before metaphysically defecating into the empty space left behind. As such, Elle plays Jesse – the latest fresh face the City of Angels cannot wait to R. Kelly upon. Hell, within the first 10 minutes of the movie we discover she’s “not from around here”, lives alone in a sleazy motel room, and has no family of which to speak! To paraphrase Pinhead, “Norma Jeans are such easy prey.”
Speaking of, a makeup artist radiating a strong sexual predator vibe and calling herself Ruby (Jena Malone) comments on our subject’s beautifully smooth skin and immediately attaches herself to Jesse after working together on one of those “gore + glamour = art” photo shoots that the kids these days apparently think are so “edgy”. You know, like that “Girls and Corpses” magazine that people keep gifting me subscriptions to for some reason despite my frequent comments of “If it’s not Linnea Quigley stripping in a graveyard or a severed head going down on Barbara Crampton, don’t waste my time”.
Not five minutes into their new friendship, Ruby invites (i.e. insistently drags) Jesse to a party to introduce the young lady to her new peers in the industry, specifically her pals Sarah (Abbey Lee) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote). Gigs is the faux friendly type whose smile is as artificial as the lips and teeth that make it up, while Sarah is colder and blunter than the sledgehammer I keep in my meat locker. As with any newbie to a social group, our protagonista is circled by the other members of the pack and has her mettle tested in judgment. In this case it’s the usual ladies’ room emotional hazing of woman-on-woman mockery about how the fresh-faced bumpkin isn’t fit to be one of them. Gigi and Sarah might as well both be named Heather, but that’d be too on-Gigi’s-surgically-manipulated-nose.
Despite the pair’s “never evolved past high school” treatment of Jesse, Ruby sticks by the girl and takes her under her big sister wing to help guide her through the labyrinth of the modeling world and not get trampled to death by the metaphorical Minotaur. I’d be more inclined to believe the legitimacy of the cosmetologist’s intentions for the Georgia Peach if only she’d stop throwing Jesse the Big Bad Wolf leer every 10 minutes! Instead I’m anchored with the unshakable presumption that the would-be mentor’s so obviously going to be the one holding the knife that goes into our gal’s back come Jesse’s inevitable nosedive from grace.
Speaking of, much like a modern fairy tale, our Cinderellian peasant destined for princessery is picked up by an esteemed modeling agent (Christina Hendricks) and immediately paired with a highly regarded camera jockey named Jack (Desmond Harrington) who looks more like the type of guy who shoots amateur gangbang porn in the backyard of his stepdad's mansion than he does a sought after fashion photog. You know what really takes the audience out of the fantasy, though? No self-respecting (or self ego-inflating) “artist” in any industry would call himself “Jack”.
As if the modeling industry’s ominous presence as our heroine’s personal chainsaw of Damocles weren’t enough of a threat, Jesse’s also endangered by the sadism of Hank (Keanu Reeves), the manager of the motor lodge in which she’s living. Henry probably got his Hotel Management diploma from the ICS home education courses that Sally Struthers used to shill for…while he was doing a stretch in prison for sexually assaulting a troop of girl scouts. Seriously, the guy would whip out his 3” killer to a single mom at a bus stop and insist she swallow his tadpoles while her preschooler and a nearby nun looked on. He reveals himself as the kind of human garbage that makes even my cast iron stomach churn harder than an industrial washing machine on the “Wipe Clean the Stains of a Life Lived in Filth” setting. His assistant/apprentice Mikey seems generally harmless, but he looks like Iggy Pop Junior (somebody’s gene pool needs a lifeguard!) and works for Hank, so that’s probably enough to land him at least somewhere near the latter rungs of Dante’s ladder.
As much as the deck is clearly stacked against her, Jesse’s not alone in her story. How’d she get to the spiritual wasteland in the first place, anyway? Enter Dean (Karl Glusman)…well, I guess you can enter him if he’s okay with it. I’ll take a pass, myself. Back on topic, Dean is an aspiring photographer who came across Jesse on the internet and convinced her to come to the left coast so they could make art together. I met my Evil Dead Bride in a fucking AOL horror chat room and even I think this pairing sounds sketchier than MC Esher’s high school notebooks! Despite his efforts to woo her while still being respectful and protective of her, Jesse is very reluctant to refer to him as any kind of boyfriend figure in conversation with others. He’s a surprisingly decent dude who never tanks his decency by pulling the bullshit “you owe me sex!” card on Jesse, which you totally expect to happen given how he too leers at Miss Jesse like fucking Jack the Ripper in the movie’s opening scene!
No friggin’ diggity, Jesse gets eye fucked from people so often in this flick, you’d think she farts Spanish Fly. It’s unnerving.
Predictably enough, as Jesse’s successes compile, so does her ego. She mutates from innocent southern teen into Family Guy rendition of Julia Roberts (“ME! ME! MEEEEE!”), talking about herself as if she were the second coming of Cindy Crawford. Such a path couldn’t lead to our heroine’s downfall harder if it were a literal street named “Downfall Avenue”. I’m presuming this transformation is what the title’s referencing, given that (spoiler alert) there isn’t a single giant neon devil sign brought to life to kaiju the downtown Los Angeles area. Will Jesse find love and safety in the arms of her unavoidable love interest Dean, or will the D-Man discover he’s better off with an inflatable girlfriend? Don’t knock it. The only rubber you need to use with her comes in her repair kit! Will Jesse instead be a “grrrl”, pull her life out of her tailspin on her own and conquer her enemies to become the new White Queen of the fashion industry? Will our neon demon predictably wind up eaten alive by the green-eyed monsters that she so naively trusts with her well being? Will this modern fable end triumphantly for Jesse like Disney’s The Little Mermaid, or tragically like Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid? That’s for me to know and for you to find out…I mean, if you feel like it. You don’t even have to watch the movie if you don’t want to to find out. The internet will just tell you how it ends, if you prefer to do it that way. Doesn’t effect my day either way. Que sera sera.
And so our story goes. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, beauty and the beast. It’s nothing to write home about, really, unless your family gets excited over loose threads. Plot threads, that is. Story elements that drop off the map, never to be seen again and character threads that drop right off with them. If it’s so bad, though, then why the quartet of disembodied blood pumpers at the top of the review? Because NeoDemo is a classic case of style over substance being a good thing. Oddly appropriate given the theme of the movie, dontcha think? You can almost believe it was poorly written intentionally…
The performances are all fine, almost in spite of the roles being generic. It doesn’t help your story’s endgame seem less obvious by having your actors play their characters so blatantly. I do give Elle Fanning credit for not taking Jesse overboard in personality even though her lines still take the character there. It’s a well done balancing act and I hope the young lady earns herself a reputable career. Glusman’s Dean is a good dude done well, with the exception of his almost Captain Howdy levels of “creepy, shadow monster face” in the opening. Everyone else is just as shallow and one-dimensional as their roles are intended to be (at least that’s my guess), so that’s fine. Now, story and cast outta the way, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this Neon Demon.
Hold onto your bippies, kids, because I’m about to slap you in the faces with a big cold salmon of shock . Surprise you it may well, but this is my first date with Mr. Winding Refn. I’ve never seen Drive. I’ve heard great things, but universally renowned projects are a breed of poultry that rarely cross my proverbial path. You know what else I’ve yet to see? The Force Awakens. Yep. Let that one soak into your corpuscles for a few. Back to Nicky WR, his presentation style fills me with the similar fondness I have for Dario Argento and Stanley Kubrick’s stuff. His heavy accentuation on the use of colors and shadows and mirrors and trippy imagery combined with jarring/haunting music are tres Argubrick. He also throws lots of different patterns straight into our eyeballs, from wallpapers to curtains to bed sheets to carpets to clothing, and they all bleed into this visual clusterfuck that borders on overwhelming without going full-on brain barf. The aforementioned music is very dream-like, and makes the whole movie feel very surreal. It’s a psyche smothering safari for the senses.
Of the biggest complaints I came across while poking around the worldwide wasteland for details were people who called out Winding Refn, some for perpetuating mainstream misogyny (all women are jealous, petty cunts to each other and will do anything to get ahead) and others for ripping off Argento’s style. Regarding the former, I can’t really weigh in, given that my gonads reside on the outside. As for the Argento complaint, it depends on whether you want to call it a rip-off or an homage. Potato, potato. However you wanna pronounce it, I’m all for it. Kubrick’s long croaked and nobody’s really doing the Argento thing anymore. Christ at a Cracker Barrel, at this point even its namesake hasn’t properly Argentoed for a good twenty years! I’d rather watch someone doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well instead of trying to force the old Italian to go back to his roots. So, for those who disagree with my positive take on the matter, I’ll let Academy Award winner Tommy Lee (the actor, not the drummer with the horse dong) answer for me.
Given the mostly cold shoulder reception The Neon Demon was given (50%ish scores on aggregated criticism sites), I’m sure there are plenty of people who would accuse me of “falling for the sales pitch”, but you could fill a thimble with all the shits I give and still have plenty of room left to fit your fingertip so you can deposit it straight into your orifice of choice. If “artsy fartsy” stuff bothers you, bypass this flick because that’s its big selling point. It’s not perfect, but it’s well worth a watch if you’re down for something different and you’re not up for taking Suspiria off your shelf for the 164th time. Keep in mind that, despite ND‘s categorization as a “horror” movie, it’s really more psychological wrapped up in an air of dread. The one traditional horror movie element kicks in in the flick’s final stretch… then it goes on for another 15 minutes. These last minutes have very little dialogue. Like almost zero. Makes you wonder if the actors were getting paid by the line and the budget ran out. What is there is still technically part of the movie, but exists less out of necessity to the story than it does to drop some more visual weirdery and fuck with the audience one last time. It reminds me a lot of what Rob Zombie did with the last act of Lords of Salem, come to think about it. Leaves us with more questions than answers, really.
Still, it looks fucking cool.
Coming up will be the next and last installment of our “Ladies Night!” cineménage à trois, so any misogynists like the one who messaged me last week telling me this kind of “pandering pussy shit” isn’t what they want to see? You can rest easy, cuz it’s almost over. Or, you can just get the fuck out. You don’t like woman-centric movies? Guess what…
Now I gotta head over to the local halal eatery and get a pile of Samosas for lunch. Those taste bud tantalizing s.o.b.s get my salivary glands more excited than Gorunk the Baby Eating Gibbon gets around babies! Yum!
Dean looks like he’s plotting to take revenge on someone by cooking their family into a pot of chili and feeding it to them… possibly after he’s had sex with it.
Eli Roth’s homage to the 20th anniversary of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” music video is, well, pretty much what you expected it to be.
“Don’t worry, I was an intern on Evil Dead II. I know how to get karo syrup and red dye out of ANYTHING.”
If Dario Argento directed Mean Girls.
“I don’t care how many penises you have, Mr. Sinclair, this isn’t a casting call for Marilyn Manson’s adults only traveling freakshow! That’s down the hall in Suite 31.”
Was this room decorated by a blind person or somebody on acid? Either way, if I have to look at it much longer I’m gonna lose my Fritos!
“Look, I know SLC Punk 2 was garbage and if you wanna throw yourself off a cliff over it, I totally understand. But I gotta get to my shift at Big Kahuna Burger in 20 minutes, so either shit or get off the pot!”
Could this mean Nicolas Winding Refn’s next project will be that rumored Smokey and the Bandit remake we’ve been hearing about for years?! I’d bet my White Lightning / Gator double-feature LaserDisc on it!
Keanu Reeves finally takes measures to have Alex Winter forcefully removed from his guest house. After 25 years of his “I’m almost done with the script for Bill & Ted 3!” excuses, Keanu has had enough.
Hey, they’ve finally started casting for the She-Ra live-action movie! I really hope they opt to cast a real Pegacorn for Swift Wind instead of cheaping out and ruining her with some stupid cgi crap.
At the Sears catalog model tryouts, dozens of moderately attractive women compete for the chance to be thousands of young American boys’ first effort hording wank material. At least until they can convince their older cousin to buy them an issue of “Hustler”. Well, that’s how it was before the internet, anyway. Kids today have it way too easy…
Only true industry insiders know about the sacred Triforce of Fashion! It’s made up of the Triforce of Beauty, the Triforce of Design, and the Triforce of Film, each of which is held by one of three legendary heroes. The sacred texts say that, one day, the three will be brought together to create the GREATEST fall collection in all of fashion!
“Screw the picture. I’m gonna make her look like Large Marge just to see the family’s reaction when they open up the casket!”
“This is why I tell you not to eat candy in bed. You’ve got a whole Sugar Daddy tangled up back here! Uggh!”
“Is THIS your card?… Ah, shit! Let me try that again.”
I know how she feels. I feel the same way when I have a third Most American Thickburger too. Brutal.
Anubis will return next time in
“The Psychedelic Conception of LSDizzle”
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