The darkest shade of neon 

The Neon Demon (2016)

Dir: Nicholas Refn 

If you were to see this on Netflix, without knowing anything about it, and toyed with the idea of watching it because the visual was cool, and the bloke who did Drive directed it,  then don’t watch it. 

Really, don’t.

I’m not even really sure if Netflix is the right platform for Nicholas Refn. Without sounding like a prentious douchewipe, I see this as more a “Amazon Prime” scenario; the type of film a Kimmy Schmidt viewer may not immediately go to as their first port of call, (unless said Kimmy Schmidt viewer likes cannibalism and necrophila). It doesn’t feel particularly organic, what section would you even put The Neon Demon in? Certainly not “party on!” (Ironically currently featuring Bojack Horseman). 

I digress…don’t get me wrong guys, Nat (my flatmate and very close friend) watched it with me, having no prior context whatsoever, and Nat enjoyed it. I was, however, kind enough to point out that there would be lesbian morgue sex about halfway through, and also that pace was not exactly high on Refn’s priority list. Clearly we needed to stablish some fundamentals prior to our sunday night junk food and horror sesh.

In fact we, and possibly a few other humans sporadically dotted around the globe, enjoyed this movie. The dude from the guardian film section seemed to like it (dude from Rolling Stone magazine….didn’t like it so much). Proof, at the risk of stating the mind-blowingly obvious, that not everything is for everyone.

End of review

Just kidding.

Let me start by explaining that this movie isn’t Drive. A lot of people were passionately pissed off that he didnt make another ‘masterpiece’ like Drive (Drive 2?) and wrote a lot of unsavoury shit about Refn. He famously got booed at Cannes, (often a great PR move), with some even walking out in outrage and shock (think Lars Von Trier circa six years ago). Folks were not happy; apparently appalled and shocked, calling this movie depraved and sickening. So many people got really touchy about the some of the themes, (a far cry from cars, masculinity or crime), that it’s really become a “thing” in relation to the film. So let’s just clarify once and for all that a.Nicholas Refn is allowed to make other types of films that don’t include or involve Ryan Gosling and b. Can we all just get the fuck over Drive. Yes it was incredible, but he’s exploring something else, it’s cool if you don’t like it, let’s move on.

This particular film explores dark topics, in a less than subtle fashion. Excess and materialism marry together beautifully mmm against the isolation backdrop of a dark LA. Everything is visually beautiful, but also feels incredibly detached and in some cases clinical. This notion is further enhanced by the flat conversations between the characters, (its not bad acting, despite Keanu Reeves), the lack of any real emotion in any of the other characters (aside from anger, which is what shapes the end), and the very obvious disposable nature of those within this “world”. If the conversations seem like non starters, its kind of the aim; everyone’s dead on the inside and hates each other.  

The premise is a beautiful child (that’s what I’m calling her, because she’s 16), enters the world of modelling and discovers pretty quickly that you can’t trust anyone. Problem is, this young beautiful ethereal girl (played by the very cute Elle Fanning), becomes increasingly more narcissistic and selfish the more she is sucked into “the neon demon” (a metaphor for the bright shiny lights of the hollywood machine). Her mannerisms subtly change, she grows increasingly more self aware…and kind of turns into a dick. Another casualty of LA.
On the sidelines are groups of grown ups out to get her in various ways. Each with their own set of vile intentions; be it lust, jealousy or power, that culminate in an actual blood bath…

Literally.

So i’m sure you’ree all dying to know about the necrophilia scene (no pun intended)…well, i never thought i would say this, but there is actually a worse scene in this film. That scene ladies and gents, involves Keanu Reeves in a shellsuit forcing a knife down Jessie’s throat. This alone was so stomache churning and dark that it made me question whether i wanted to see what was on its way, which I’m sure was the whole point. This scene also marks a change of pace, because up until this point it’s all been pretty visuals and awkward conversations.

I won’t pretend that this film isn’t self aware, or a little slow. It’s both. If you want to watch a “horror” movie with haunted houses and chainsaws, this might not be your bag. Yes he does borrow a lot; everything from Italian horror, to Kubrick to Lynch. Yes it’s very stylised and very visual. Is it shit? No. It isn’t.

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Lobster Claw

The Lobster (2015)
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

I’ve been banging on about this film for weeks because it’s very rare I get REALLY excited about something, and basically force everyone around me to watch it like a woman possessed.

“Have you seen it yet?” I hissed at my colleagues this morning. I could actually SEE their thought process as they politely tried to tell me to fuck off. NO WE HAVEN’T SEEN THAT WEIRD FILM ABOUT SINGLE PEOPLE BEING TURNED INTO ANIMALS BECAUSE WE’RE NOT ALL PSYCHOPATHS LIKE YOU.

Next it will be be that Josef Fritzel film (which no doubt I’ll probably really enjoy), but luckily I haven’t gotten round to that yet so you’ll just have to hear about how groundbreaking i thought this was instead.

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The premise, of what is essentially a very simple film, is life in a horrifying modern dystopia, which enforces  traditional values down all their citizens throat in the most bizarre fashion.

Citizens of “The City” are punished by law for failing to be part of a couple. There is a time limit on how long you’re “allowed” to be single, and once you have failed to find a partner on your own, you are then forced to check into a hotel where you have forty five days to find someone. Think very extreme version of “take me out” meets Wuthering Heights. Thats the vibe.

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The hotel itself is similar to a care home or even a school, in its regimented, clinical and militant approach to matching up its guests. The process is very mathematical, practical and unbelievably depressing. Should you, the single man or woman, fail to find someone within the forty five day time frame you are turned into an animal of your choice (yes, animal), and sent into the woods to live the rest of your life as the waste of air that society now deems you. No pressure.

The powers that be (in this weird modern world) essentially require you to fulfil your basic human duty to find companionship and live as part of a couple. If you don’t, you basically die being left to fend for yourself.

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Now, I really enjoyed this, even though hands down… bleak as fuck. Bleak, as i often try and explain, is actually good sometimes; it’s often required to balance out all Netflix originals, Taylor Swift songs and American Idol auditions constantly rammed down our throats. It’s like a much needed reflection of the shit world we live in, that we should never really forget.

Selling it?

ok, so you have to remember that this is a surrealist film… ACTUALLY a surrealist film, not just like a bit of an odd movie. For starters Colin Farel isn’t his usually sexy self; he’s weedy, asexual and a bit pathetic. He sports a creepy paedo tash and awkwardly fumbles everywhere, making him kind of unbearable to watch. The dialogue and interactions between the characters is eerily calm, unnatural and bizarre, and the resounding oddness of the whole situation is given to the viewer in a very “matter of fact” way which makes it all the more bizarre. If this film were an elephant in a room it would be a florescent elephant in a basement flat at 2am.

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The setting is familiar, there’s nothing Sci fi or other worldly about the aesthetic whatsoever. In fact the aesthetic is actually very dreary and grey. Nothing futuristic, no flo mo technology, no flying, no hovercrafts.

I won’t ruin it by telling you anything else apart from the fact that it’s probably one of the most chilling films I’ve seen in recent years. There are scenes which made me actually wince, and considering I wrote my uni thesis on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s pretty hard to make me wince.

Highly recommend

Sara

Maniac: Revisted

Even though it wasn’t actually out that long ago, (fine…its only recently become available on Netflix). I feel that this month’s revisited should go to Elijah Wood for acting like a crazy fool.

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Or Frodo goes Loco as Total film put it.

He’s actually so mind-blowing crazy in this film its beyond words.The worst part is that we don’t ever really find out the specifics into why he enjoys murdering so many women, but we do know he LOVES hair. Later there’s some flashbacks of his mum snorting coke and having threesomes, while he’s like 5 and watching from a wardrobe (I’ll assume this lead to some of his angst), but no definite ‘I’ve decided to murder chicks’ epiphany. We know he likes to stalk. That we can be sure of.

In the opening scene he full on stalks this poor girl from outside the club right to her door (ladies, get a ride with your friend yo), and then he scalds her…and then staples her scalps onto an awkwardly standing mannequins back of house, (thankfully he’s intelligent enough not to put that shit in the window). He likes to chat to the mannequins (full on Conversations), and scrubs his hands profusely with bleach a lot. It’s all so damn Freudian.

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To be fair who the hell would trust a guy who works in a mannequin shop? I know who…Anna does. Anna is a French Chick who’s equally as obsessed with mannequins and wants to use them for an art installation thing (like really though, who you expecting to meet in that field girlfriend?) So Anna and our Maniac strike up an unusual friendship, which seems to tip him over his killing threshold. In fact I’m pretty convinced as a way of NOT killing Anna, he just goes on a mad killing spree so he can expel those angry feelings.

The scary one was the online date he goes on, with the girl who takes him back to hers. That annoyed me a bit I must say. If you look at the guys hands, they SCREAM serial Killer, I was literally shouting  ‘please dont fuck him’ really loudly at the TV hoping it would shift the plot. Nope.

Its been labelled by many as trashy gore, with lots of unnecessary explicit scenes, so yes it got a lot of bad reviews, but i actually loved it. The POV thing totally works, except for a few times when they forget its POV and randomly zoom out and you’re like ‘woah…its POV, what are u doing to my mind’, (like the scene in the garage with the girl who runs off the train), so I guess if they kept it a touch more consistent it would be miles better.

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I also love that its Elijah wood, and he’s just creepy as fuck, all the time. Even when he was Frodo I was like if this guy didn’t have a ring, he’d be out murdering elves for no reason. So that helps.

Also the fact that its set in a very unglam downtown LA, and LA looks scary. Forget all those images of Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach. This is a grim LA and you don’t wanna be there on your own at 3am.

So all in its worth the watch. Theres a few weird bits where the mannequins come to life and it gets a bit surreal, but try to gloss over that.

And don’t eat. It’s really gory.

 

Funny Games Revisted.

Everyone pretty much jizzes their pants whenever you talk about Michael Haneke. I’ve sat through endless conversations with film grads, excitedly discussing how profound Haneke’s work is; how his subtle social commentary and take on violence is “unbelievably thought provoking”, how his meticulous and flawless filmmaking practices will haunt you for months, and so forth and so forth.

In particular I have heard time and time again that Funny Games would be the most ‘disturbing’  and ‘intelligent’ thing I was ever going to see in my adult life, that it was literally so mind-blowing that he was forced to make it twice, in two different langues, ten years apart, shot by shot.

 

So I watched it. In both languages.

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