Friday, October 07, 2016

The Neon Demon: part 2

Y'all really gonna make me continue this?  Ugh, fine.  Here's the second (and thankfully final) part of my review of The Neon Demon.  This will make no sense unless you've read the previous entry, and probably not even then. 


When last we left our lovely heroine Jesse, she had just passed out after receiving flowers.  Dean decides to go pay Keanu Reeves a visit and pay for the damages done by the mountain lion that inexplicably found its way into Jesse's room.  Keanu continues to be a skeeze and tells Dean that there's a 13-year-old runaway in the room next to Jesse if he's interested.  "Real Lolita shit," Keanu says charmingly.  Dean is repulsed and peaces out.

Later on, Jesse and Gigi are getting ready for a runway show.  Oddly enough, although Gigi  is wearing some real dramatic clown-ass makeup in her reflection, her actual face is bare.  Whoa dudes!  Is it a clumsy art school metaphor for things not being what they seem?  Of course it is because that's how this movie DO, yo.  Gigi tells Jesse about all the work she's had done and then adds "Anything worth having hurts a little", which: groan.  During the show, we see that inverted Triforce logo again and Jesse kisses her reflection (BETA KITTEN PROGRAMMING) and yawn.

After the show, Jesse gets dressed up in a gold halter top and black "Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease" pants and she looks really fucking hot.  (I checked IMDB to make sure Elle Fanning was at least 18 before writing that.)  She and Dean go to a bar and run into the designer, Gigi, and Sarah.  Dean introduces himself and the designer snipes, "Your name's BEAN?"  Oh, the comedy!!!  The designer starts blathering on about how Jesse is so gorgeous because she hasn't had anything done and adds "Beauty isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing", which: Groan 2, Electric Boogaloo.  Jesse starts acting like a bitch and Dean doesn't like it, which of course is completely fair.

Back at the motel, Jesse is asleep and Keanu lets himself into her room and starts sliding a knife into her mouth and down her throat.  She wakes up, of course, and he says "Wider".  This scene is really fucking gross and uncomfortable and reminded me of the chicken scene in Killer Joe.  (Side note: I saw Killer Joe in the theater because the movie I wanted to see was cancelled and there was a guy behind me that absolutely CHORTLED during that scene, and I wanted to fucking haul off and smack him.)  It turns out to be a dream, which is good and makes it less icky but honestly, I was squirming.  Things continue to be cringeworthy when Jesse hears someone next door (presumably the 13-year-old runaway) being sexually assaulted.  She calls Ruby instead of, you know, the POLICE, and Ruby tells her to come over, which she does.

Ruby is housesitting, and after Jesse takes a shower, Ruby starts brushing out Jesse's hair in my grandmother's room circa 1983.  Ruby starts getting really excited and tries to have sex with Jesse despite Jesse's protestations, saying "I want to be your first" and instantly losing her place as the most sympathetic character in the movie.  Jesse rebuffs her and Ruby isn't happy about it.  She draws a big face with X'ed out eyes on the mirror.  FORESHADOWING ALERT.  Also, she is a terrible housesitter and, as it turns out, morgue assistant because...

...oh god...

...she goes to her second job at the morgue and is putting makeup on a female corpse when she begins thinking about Jesse.  She closes the door and strips off her gloves and now we see why the rating advisory at the beginning mentioned a "scene of aberrant sexuality".  Yes, Ruby begins fondling the corpse's breasts and Y-incision (vomit) and then reaches between her/its legs and rubbing vigorously.  I couldn't tell if she was rubbing herself or the corpse and frankly that is the one small kindness this movie did for me.

Tangent time!  I once had a very long and heated argument with a dorm mate over whether necrophilia was truly a victimless crime.  (This argument was precipitated by a viewing of Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Animation Festival, which had a really horrifying cartoon about necrophilia that upset me so much I was in tears and had to go to the lobby until it was over.)  His argument was that necrophilia is a victimless crime, and I said although the corpse couldn't really be called a victim, the deceased's friends/family could be considered victims because who the hell would want to learn that their loved one had been used like that?  This was what college life consisted of pre-internet.

Okay, so Ruby gets back from a hard night of corpse friggin' and Jesse has put bright pink makeup and glitter all around her eyes.  All I could think about was how much that glitter would hurt if it got in her eyes and I wanted to offer her a bottle of Visine.  She's standing on the diving board of the empty pool talking about how hot she is and how "women would kill to look like this".  First of all, arrogant much, and second, FORESHADOWING.  "[Women] are praying they'll look like a second-rate version of me" and I was like stay grounded, sis.

Well, Jesse never gets a chance to redeem herself in the viewer's eyes, because when she goes back inside, she's attacked by Sarah and Gigi.  They chase her around and when they corner her back outside, they push her into the pool where she appears to bleed out.  Then we see a blood-covered Ruby in a tub, watching Sarah and Gigi shower for what seems like twenty minutes.  It's like an Andrew Blake porno but with WAY more blood.

Now Ruby is outside wearing nothing but really ugly pants.  She's watering the plants and takes a moment to wash Jesse's blood off the concrete.  Then she's lying in a grave she's dug in the garden.  I will not be giving her a good review on Angie's List.  Then she's back inside and blood is gushing out from between her legs because I don't know why.

But what of Sarah and Gigi?  Well, they're at a seaside mansion, where Gigi is getting prepped for a photo shoot next to another model who asks Sarah about her competition.  Sarah says "I ate her" and the other model laughs and says "Ew".  Oh, if you only knew, unnamed model!  Quinn from Dexter decides he wants Gigi to be in the shoot instead and sends Anonymodel away.  Sarah and Gigi are standing outside and Gigi starts looking all sweaty and uncomfortable.  She runs away and goes inside, where the wallpaper has swastikas on it (?!?!?), and she tries desperately to puke.  Sarah comes inside and watches dispassionately as Gigi cries and then, ugh, barfs up one of Jesse's (just assuming here) eyeballs.  Gigi screams "I need to get her out of me!" and stabs herself in the stomach as Sarah just stands there doing everything but examining her fingernails and yawning.  Sarah grabs the eyeball out of the puke pile and eats it, because of course she does, and then she goes back outside to become America's Next Top Really Fucked Up Model. 

At this point, the screen changed to a shot of dry cracked ground and I thought "goddammit, I thought this fucking movie was over" but thank Christ, it was!  The credits started rolling and Sia started singing and FINALLY, my 2-hour nightmare was over.

What did I like about TND?  Well, it was visually striking and the score was quite good, but other than that, it fucking blew.  As my friend Ruth said, it was Showgirls without the laughs.  The acting was dreadful, the writing was clunky, and what was the point, anyway?  That the modeling industry eats up young women and spits them out?  Because if THAT was the point, then goddamn, it was about as subtle as, well, neon.  (Speaking of which, why the hell was it called The Neon Demon anyway?)

Look, if you want a movie with a similar feel/aesthetic, here are some much better ones you could watch:  Suspiria.  Mulholland Drive.  Starry Eyes.  Entrance.  Black Swan.  The Hunger.  But take my advice and give TND a hard pass, as everyone involved in this flick should have.

And Sarah?  Next time, try the steak sandwich instead. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Neon Demon: part 1

So I started watching The Neon Demon (hereafter referred to as TND) a couple of nights ago, and about 30 minutes in, I realized just how hypnotically awful it really was.  I decided to grab a notepad and a pen and start again from the beginning so I could write this entry, because I need to talk about just HOW fucking weird and terrible TND really is.  I'm going to discuss it in detail, so if you have any interest in watching it---which, honestly, you really shouldn't---then you should back out now.  This will be your last warning.


The Neon Demon is a 2016 film by Nicolas Winding Refn, director of Drive and Only God Forgives.  As you can tell from those two titles, he's created some really polarizing work, and TND is no exception; in fact, it was booed at the Cannes Film Festival AND it received a standing ovation.

The movie opens with a shot of a young woman (Elle Fanning) sprawled out on a couch with her throat slit and her face bejeweled like a dollar store Mardi Gras mask.  Oh no!  What happened to her?  Fear not; the camera pulls back and we see that she's actually doing a photoshoot.  Why would any fashion spread feature a murdered young woman?  Because ~FASHION~, darling.  This is not as outlandish as it may seem, by the way; one only needs to look at the Symbolic Pictures of the Month column on Vigilant Citizen to see that photoshoots featuring death and/or violence aren't exactly rare in fashion magazines.  I mean, seriously, this was an ACTUAL FUCKING AD:

Granted, it certainly catches your eye, but how does a dog biting a woman's wrist make you want to buy fucking jewelry, exactly?  Also I hope that model got paid REALLY well and that dog was REALLY well trained, because holy shit.

Back to TND, if we must.  Our bloody model is named Jesse, who's 16 years old and has just moved to Los Angeles to make it big as a model.  (Seems like New York City would be a better bet, but if you're looking for logic, you came to the wrong movie.)  After the shoot, she's standing in a dressing room, listlessly wiping at her arms with a moist towelette.  There's a woman watching her in a mirror, and oh boy did they pull the "predatory lesbian" character straight out of the ol' cliche playbook.  This is Ruby (Jena Malone), and she's a makeup artist.  She invites Jesse to a party at a club, and in the bathroom, Jesse gets to meet Gigi and Sarah, two other models who alternate between fawning over Jesse and being intensely bitchy to her.  "I hear your parents are dead."  Gee, thanks for ripping off that emotional scab, Gigi/Sarah/whoever the fuck it was.  When they leave the bathroom, which by the way is pretty deserted for a club, the music goes straight up Silent Hill 2 and they watch a performance which...well...I can't really tell you what happened because the strobe lights went into overdrive, which is a surefire migraine trigger for me.  So I looked away for that part, but I doubt I missed much.

The next day, Jesse goes to a modeling agency where she talks with an agent played by the effortlessly gorgeous Christina Hendricks.  "I would never say you're fat," Christina tells Jesse.  Why, thank you!  Christina also says something about how girls come to LA thinking they can be models because some dude named Chad in a mall food court told them they were pretty, and I'll be honest, I got a genuine laugh out of that one.  Christina is pretty impressed by Jesse, and she signs her under the condition that Jesse tells everyone she's 19, because sure why not.

That night, Jesse goes on a date with Dean, the guy who was taking her picture at the beginning of the movie.  She twirls around with the lights of Los Angeles all fuzzy in the background and it's very prettily shot and dreamy.  She says something about the moon being a big eye in the sky and ILLUMINATI REFERENCE and also cliche.  Dean takes her back to her crappy motel (I'd ask how she managed to rent a room when she's only 16, but it's the kind of place that doesn't care) and doesn't walk her up to her room, which: seriously?  The place is totally sketchy and probably has at least one or two meth addicts and pimps roaming around, so maybe escort a young lady to her front door.  Jesse opens the door, tries to turn on the lights, and they don't work.  She sees the sliding glass door is open and something is looming in the shadows, so she understandably freaks and jets right on out of there.

So Jesse runs downstairs and bangs on the manager's door.  Oh look, it's Keanu Reeves!  Keanu ain't happy about being bothered and proceeds to bust out some really terrible acting.  Oy, Keanu.  He's very good looking and by all accounts is a genuinely nice guy IRL (I read basically every celebrity gossip site/rag and have never seen a bad word about him, which is really saying something; I've even seen shit about Tom Hanks, for chrissakes), but the man cannot act.  (I refer you to the "Whaaaaaat did you SAY to him?" line from The Devil's Advocate if you want to argue with me.)   He and his baseball bat wielding friend, who I'll call Negan because I can't remember his actual name and who gives a fuck, go upstairs to check it out.  Guess what's in the room?  Why, it's a mountain lion!  Why is everyone so blase about it instead of fleeing and calling 911?  How did it get into a room on the second floor?  How did it fuck with the lights?  Why is it roaring like a REAL lion when they don't actually do that?  Shhhh, logic has no place here.

Keanu is pissed!  He wants Jesse to pay for the damages!  What a dick! 

The next day (where did she sleep while the mountain lion was in her room?  IDK IDK), Jesse goes to a test shoot and Ruby's there.  Ruby decides to decorate Jesse's face with gold leaf, which makes her look like a Final Fantasy character.  Unfortunately, Jesse is wearing a sundress, and the effect is really fucking incongruous.  She needs to be in Alexander McQueen with makeup like that, not Forever 21!  Seriously, look at this shit:

"Use the Amulet of Lethe for +10 damage against the neon demon"

The test shoot is with a photographer named Jack, who is played by Desmond Harrington.  I've got a soft spot for Desmond because he played Joey Quinn in Dexter and had one of the hottest sex scenes I've ever seen on TV, wherein he went down on Brandon Routh's wife (trivia!) and yeah, it was high noon on my sundial.  Unfortunately, he went through a spell where he was looking borderline cadaverous, but he's looking a bit better now.  Still not at his Quinn peak, but at least he doesn't look like a strong wind would knock him over.

Jack tells everyone to leave the room, and I was like "Um, get the fuck out of there, girl."  Ruby doesn't like this either, because she's smart, and she offers to stay, but Jack tells her to piss off, which she does.  Fortunately, and much to my pleasant surprise, Jack does not have bad intentions despite telling Jesse to take off all her clothes.  He smears her with gold paint and I was like "Uh, you better leave a bare patch or she'll suffocate like the Goldfinger chick" but he leaves her face clean aside from the shit Ruby applied earlier.  (Between the gold paint and the fake blood, I sure hope Elle Fanning has a good dermatologist because this movie probably wrecked her skin.)  She probably would have been better off suffocating under gold paint than going through later events and oh yeah, did I mention I'm going to spoil the shit out of this movie?  'Cause I am!

After the shoot, Ruby tells Jesse to be careful around Jack and also to call her any time if she needs anything.  She does everything but wink at her and say "I mean scissoring" here.  Ruby goes to lunch with Gigi and Sarah who continue to be nasty bitches.  The waitress starts to recite the specials, one of them (they are basically interchangeable) says "We don't need to hear that" and the other one says "Oh, but they work so hard to memorize them!"  One of the specials is a steak sandwich with fries, which sounds fucking delicious and I will have that, please.  But they get three coffees and a fruit cup, which is boring and also sounds like a surefire way to get diarrhea.  They talk about Jesse and Ruby says "She has that...thing."  Very specific.  Thanks for that.

At a casting call, all of the models are wearing only bras and panties.  They do a quick walk for a designer who is more interested in folding his pocket square over and over again.  But Jesse catches his eye!  He even puts down his pocket square!  He wants her to close the show.  Sarah is not pleased and punches out the mirror in the bathroom, fracturing her reflection.  (Yet another Illuminati reference.)  Jesse comes in and Sarah does a whole "woe is me" routine and says "In the middle of winter, you're the sun."  Well, Sarah, if modeling doesn't work out for you, you could always write Hallmark cards.  Jesse accidentally cuts her hand on broken glass and Sarah lunges for her and licks the blood off her hand.  Jesse doesn't like this, because duh, and she flees.  She does a lot of fleeing in this flick.  It's a flee flicker!  (LOL FOOTBALL REFERENCE LOL)

Jesse goes back to Motel Shit and the mountain lion has bounced.  She starts hallucinating triangles that look like an upside down Triforce from the Legend of Zelda series.  Yep, another Illuminati reference.  (Disclaimer: I don't actually believe in the Illuminati, but I love a good conspiracy theory and I know what the symbols are.)  Then some hands come pushing out of the wallpaper like a scene from American Horror Story: Hotel.  Dean shows up with flowers and Jesse takes them and faints very prettily on the carpet.  Her blonde hair streams out around her face, the flowers land just so, and she looks like a beautiful corpse.  FORESHADOWING AHOY!

At this point, I had to stop the movie and write up this entry while it was still fresh in my mind.  Lucky you.  Stay tuned for the next installment!