Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Nicolas Winding Refn's, The Neon Demon

of 7 viewers "Liked" "The Neon Demon" (USA, 2016)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

KillDozer - "Nicolas Winding Refn, in his own words, made a "horror" movie and this movie's composer Cliff Martinez was "influenced by Goblin". With that being said I can't imagine anyone with even the slightest knowledge of their work being anything but amazed at what they experience during The Neon Demon. If you like your genre explained through comparisons then I would have to say this move is part Starry Eyes part Black Swan. Every shot could be printed and framed. Every actor and every line seem genuine. The film is an experience and in my opinion must be viewed in a theatre to receive the intended effect. I look forward to watching it again as this film begs for multiple viewings. Warning: the trailer is extremely misleading and might set some up for disappointment. As for myself I believe it to be a beautiful achievement in genre film-making. If nothing else I can promise you that The Neon Demon is something you have never seen before and are not likely to soon forget." - 4 Stars (collection worthy)

Math Mage -*Spoilers*- "A truly goreous film filled with beautiful people and places. If you're looking for jump scares this is the wrong film - it inspires horror rather than fear. Others have said our protagonist seems innocent but I disagree. She is innocent in the same way a crocodile is innocent; it feels no remores for eating you because that's what it does. She manipulates people because it's what she does. Some things remain mysterious and I was surprised that no one asked the director about them even though they don't really matter (the identity of the rapist, what the hell happened to Ruby). All through the film I remained unsure where it was going, specifically how supernatural it would be (were they gonna pull a Starry Eyes on us) and just as I decided that it wasn't going to be supernatural at all suddenly you can eat people to gain their power." - 4 Stars

Clark Little - "I love this movie and apparently that is an unpopular opinion amongst the professional viewing public. Don’t care. I’m flying my Refn flag high and strong on this one. It’s challenging, beautiful, dark, disturbing, disgusting, unforgiving, bright, loud and unforgettable. Refn forces you to become a surrogate sibling/parent to Fanning’s “Jesse” and because of Fanning’s unrelenting charm and naivete you become protective of her from the wild beasts of the night, both literally and figuratively. In Refn’s first attempt at the horror genre, he does not dip his toe into the murky waters. He takes a swan dive into the deep, dark pool of the uncomfortable. And this judge gives it high marks." - 4 Stars

The Impostor - "The Neon Demon is an amazingly beautiful film. Every scene is shot perfectly and well put together. Many moments are free of dialogue and/or silent but the storytelling and visuals drew me in from beginning to end. Acting is top notch, the roles were casted perfectly. Refn is on a roll with his films, and I can't wait to see what he puts out next. I'd definitely recommend The Neon Demon to anyone, even knowing it may not be liked by everyone due to its visual storytelling vs a great narrative. I thought a lot about this film after watching, it just sticks with you for a while. I'm looking forward to owning in the future." - 5 Stars

Huntress -
"There is so much going on between the lines of The Neon Demon, that I can't help but think those who were bored just weren't paying attention. But even if you're somehow not into the story, the colorful shots and soundtrack will keep your senses satisfied. This is definitely the kind of movie that gets better with each viewing." -4.5 Stars

Lord Battle - "Nicolas Winding Refn has created a film that encompasses nearly all of my favorite themes in film, visual and metaphorical. Affluent beautiful brats, Elizabeth Bathory, and an absence of dialog that is replaces with an upbeat hypnotic soundtrack. The Neon Demon may not be a good movie but it's a perfect film." - 5 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

Nicolas Winding Refn's body of work is known best for its very visual story-telling style. NWR has even been known to remove dialogue from finished scripts, which allows room for his composers to organically grow their music and creates room for the audience to reflect on the imagery before them. This "pause" of sorts polarizes his audiences but this dilemma isn't specific to just Refn. The whole genre of art-house suffers and even more polarizing is the sub genre of art-house horror, which also suffers from waves of "horror hype". But rather than start another dissection on horror and its hype, I'm going to discuss whom The Neon Demon is implied to be within the film and why Refn calling The Neon Demon a horror movie actually changes the answer.

An art film is typically a serious, independent film aimed at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. An art film is "intended to be a serious artistic work, often experimental and not designed for mass appeal"; they are "made primarily for aesthetic reasons rather than commercial profit", and they contain "unconventional or highly symbolic content"
- Wikipedia on Art-House Film

The Neon Demon opens with Ruby and Jesse conversing in a dressing room, they are making eye contact through their mirror reflections. Normally this would simply imply that there is going to be a major theme of duality but Refn's film is pointedly modern and purposefully geared at the millennial generation, thus transforming this moment into a social media metaphor, reflecting (no pun intended) on how aware we all are of our appearance. I point out this slight variation on metaphor because it marks the beginning of not only the film but of a kind of "play on cinema metaphor".

Speaking of highly symbolic content, take a look at the artistic choice to stack the film title. Everything from the amount of letters in each word, to the new words formed by the placement (Moon, Eon, etc...) 
Now if we followed standard film logic, The Neon Demon would lead audiences to believe that NWR has created a statement about L.A. and Hollywood pioneering our now extremely narcissistic/superficial culture, thus saying that the neon demon is actually L.A. life. This theory works fine but when you take into account that Refn has himself said he intentionally made a horror film, that changes things.
Art-house films and horror are very similar (expressive, low-budget, niche, etc...) but one thing they treat differently is social commentary. Art-house films try to make a point that is broad and exposes the given situation but leaves the audience to ultimately ponder a solution on their own. Whereas horror films like to take a broad issue and give it a face (The holocaust/Wolfman, social injustice/Zombies) and ultimately pit it against regular people forced to choose between fight or flight. Jesse is our regular person in The Neon Demon, she is an Average Joe from middle-america, who happens to be beautiful. So whom is Jesse pitted against? If you can figure out who convinces her to abandon her morals in place of her own worship you'll find your demon. This isn't an easy task I admit, as it seems all of L.A. is pulling her into some sort of moral pitfall but there is a specific moment where Jesse makes a choice that no rational person, let alone our innocent heron would have made and that's returning to Ruby's house.
Jesse returns to Ruby after nearly being raped her, not because of Stockholm Syndrome or a lack of places to go but simply because she refuses to stay in a motel. Jesse is now convinced that she belongs in this mansion as L.A. is her town and the house, now her cathedral. Jesse has fallen completely for Ruby's trap and will now have her beauty consumed. Ruby has and always will be the neon demon, the makeup artist leading models to her lair, then to her cemetery. Ruby is the problem in this art-house horror film, phones and narcissism are just the very real future.

- Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized on 6/16/2016 at the Alamo Draft House in theatre 1, with Nicolas Winding Refn and Cliff Martinez in person.
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not effect the rating.

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