By Josh Krubner
I still haven't seen this movie as of this posting. Because of this, I'm going to throw the Review (and Tangent) here, unedited. Point is... you're getting the full Josh Krubner experience here, as I'm training my eyes not to look. Enjoy.
The Neon Demon, much like Refn’s other films, is a constantly changing spectacle akin to a kaleidoscope (these things we 80s kids would play with that had constantly changing triangles, bright colors, and shapes. You might be able to find a video of one on youtube). Refn excels at this craft- he’s like Zach Snyder without the cocaine and frat parties. If Snyder could slow down – his pacing, not his speed-up slo-mo signature action, and he was 100x smarter, he would be Refn. I now want to see every Snyder movie remade by Refn…
The Neon Demon’s only fault, is also its central focus, Elle Fanning. She’s ok… I guess. I didn’t love her in Maleficent, and aside from these two films, I’ve never seen her in anything. The problem is, she’s presented as the second coming of Cindy Crawford or Helen of Troy. Aside from the post “demon” scene, there is not one point in this movie she looks, sounds, or feels remotely like a “model”, super or otherwise. She looks more like a little kid playing dress up in mommy’s clothes, than Jennifer Lawrence ever has, and that’s J-Law’s signature look that has won her an Oscar.
All I could think while watching this movie was “wow, Amanda Seyfried would be fucking amazing in this role!”
The other problem with Elle’s “Jessie” and her pure as the driven snow virginity (seriously, they might as well have called the character Purity Busch- the best character name ever in the history of Canadian Cinema) is we don’t get to see her fall. We don’t know if she has one.
Neon Demon, being a Refn flick could have gone down one of three paths:
The feature length videos of Def Leppard’s Photograph and Poison’s Fallen Angel
American Psycho for Girls
thankfully, it takes all three, with a huge side of Little Red Riding Hood.
The standout scene is the titular one –that being the one the title is derived from, and not the one of the two naked super models bathing each other in blood…although that one is pretty damn great too. The Neon Demon itself, what it is, what it represents, is just fantastic.
The Neon Demon- that’s the film itself- is what I would call a “gateway film”. It exists floating in the sea of Transformers, remakes, rebootquels, and animated talking animals. It is there for anyone to swim out and find, the type of movie you’d find on Showtime or IFC drunk, high, or just suffering from insomnia at 2:40am on a Wednesday. If you love film, embrace the demon, and turn away from schlock-busters that are only made to satisfy the unindoctrinated masses.
This is an R-rated movie. It’s not a film to bring children or a date to. Christina Hendricks is back doing a half-assed Joan Holloway, while Keanu Reeves gives his most out of character and haunting performance to date. This is a flick that will make Deadpool look like Baby’s Day Out by comparison. “Disturbing mind-fuck scenes” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The final scene will have us questioning if the message was about Jessie’s Drive, or our own. Only God Forgives, but the Neon God takes no prisoners, and it will leave us with the brilliant dual message that beauty both comes from within, and is truly in the eye of the beholder.
The Neon Demon is but a few notches short of a masterpiece and gets a 9.8/10 or an A+
Getting a little into Tangent Territory:
Someone asked me “what [in your opinion] is the “Neon Demon”, as I referred to it as a very real and very tangible thing. My answer was the following:
The Neon Demon [as a physical entity] is both a metaphor for getting caught up in the lifestyle, and it's the blue (could be purple, im shade colorblind and those tend to bleed together for me) neon triangle Jessie saw twice, that turned into a red diamond symbolizing her corruption/fall and that it was inherently evil.
Arguments could be made for whether or not it actually exists, but the metaphor for the lifestyle does.
The songs Sound of Silence (both the original by Simon and Garfunkel and the recent one by Disturbed) and Tool's Vicarious touch on the "neon God" being a stand-in for fame and fortune, material corruption, commercialized media, and just outright television/fame.
This same person then remarked how the film definitely got surreal following the “Demon” scene, and turned for them “Kafkaesque”. While I can see that, for me, it went very much more into the realm of Fairy Tale, with the entire Third Act being a stand-in for Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Little Red Riding Hood. You could follow this thread back to the beginning of the film and see allusions for several different Fairy Tales, for example, Keanu Reeves being a stand-in for the Big Bad Wolf, in Three Little Pigs.