Rating 1/5 I’m a Johnny Come Lately to seeing or reviewing The Neon Demon so forgive me if my review feels late. Frankly there was nothing about the trailer to this movie that made me want to go see it, not even on a base male “hey look, hot woman in their underwear” level. It did not look like my kind of movie, and boy was I right. It was only through the recommendation of another reviewer I respect who declared this his “best summer movie” that I took a look at it. I have never regretted listening to the reviews of a movie since I wasted my money on No Country For Old Men. (And yes, I thought that No Country For Old Men was a pretentious piece of shit and could not understand why so many people loved it so much.) Neon Demon did not even get to “piece of shit” status for me. Instead it left me with one question: What the fuck did I just watch?
Okay boys and girls, I’m going to spoiler the living shit out of this thing so if you’ve stumbled upon this review and have not seen the movie don’t read any further than this. If you have seen the movie and loved it, well you might not like my reasons for giving it a 1 out of 5. This was not a good movie. This was not a good art film. This was not even a good music video. This movie felt like the kind of fever dream Thomas Harris give his serial killers. I’m not sure if this thing was trying to be stylish or a think piece or even a memorable swatch of artsy fair. In my mind it failed on any level it was going for. Throughout the movie I kept asking “What is going on? Why did that happen? Where did that come from?” adding up to the title of this review: What the hell did I just watch?
Neon Demon’s kinda-sorta Plot
A 16-year-old girl played by Elle Fanning is in town trying to be a model. When the movie opens she’s doing a photo shoot by someone whose obviously a fan of 1980’s slasher movies. While taking off her bloody make-up (See: Subtext?) she meets this woman, a make-up artist, whose obviously weird and obviously has a not so age appropriate attraction to this girl. Next scene Elle Fanning is in an office with Christina Hendricks who showers her with compliment and suggest the girl lie about her age. The girl is given a photo shoot with the guy whose every weird/pretentious photographer in every movie or TV show about models taking photo shoots with weird photographers. (I’ve actually worked in the modeling industry. Every photographer is not, in fact, weird and pretentious. Maybe a little full of themselves but they are just people trying to make a living.) She’s staying at a seedy hotel run by a creepy guy played by Keanu Reeves who still can’t get outside his wooden acting. More on that one later. After the photo shoot she and other models are put on display with two people who I have no clue were supposed to be and she gets noticed above all over models because. . .reasons? She has a boyfriend who is as important to what is supposed to be the plot as every plant you’ll see in the movie, except he’s willing to pay her bills and play nurse maid. When she get chosen over the other models at the display thing, one of the veteran models has a freak out in the dressing room and breaks some glass. Elle Fanning cuts herself on the glass and the veteran model tries to drink her blood. No, the veteran model doesn’t sprout fangs or turn into a bat, she just tries to drink the girl’s blood for. . .reasons. (There’s a lot of this sort of thing in this flick.)
There’s a fashion show where the guy who noticed Elle Fanning earlier wants her to close the show. This is an thing in runway modeling, being the first and last on the runway is a huge deal. After the show Elle Fanning and bland unimportant to what passes for a plot boyfriend meets the designer or director of the show and two of the other models where they have an exchange about beauty and, well beauty. The boyfriend gets mad and leaves but is waiting for Elle Fanning when she gets home to tell her something about her wanting to be like “those people.” (See: Subtext?) That night Elle Fanning has a dream that Keanu Reeve is trying to make her blow a knife and wakes up on the floor for. . .reasons. Someone is trying to get her door but she manages to double lock it – the same door that was easily kicked in during an earlier scene. Whoever it was goes next door and rapes what we believe is a 13 year old runaway (because the movie told us there was a 13-year-old runaway) so Elle calls weird lady from the first act. Weird lady from the first act invites Elle to stay at her house then proceed to try to rape her. By the way, weird lady is a make-up artist who also works in a morgue. (See: Subtext?) The next day weird lady has sex with a corpse while Elle Fanny Jills off on a couch in the house. Another reviewer explained this was weird lady’s dream, or something, but the movie has so many scenes like this I thought it was just the next day. That night Elle Fanny puts on a gown and weird make-up and gives a speech about how everyone wants her and how she’s dangerous. Elle Fanning goes back inside the house where the other models are waiting for her. The models and weird make-up lady kill Elle Fanning and then everyone is bathing in blood, the weird make-up lady in a tub of it. The next day the models are shooting with the weird pretentious photographer dude and one of the models spits up an eye then cuts herself open screaming “I’ve got to get her out of me.” (WTF?). The second model picks up the eye and eats it and goes back to the photo shoot as if her friend is not lying in a pool of blood after cutting herself open. End of movie.
Neon Demon – What the fuck did I just watch?
You would think I was being unfair to this movie and you’d be wrong. What I just describe was pretty much the movie. What was missing? For one thing, acting. The only performance that had even an ounce of emotion was Keanu Reeves and except John Wick and Matix Reeves has the emotion range of drift wood. Yet he was the only one with any real emotion in how he delivered his lines. Everyone else in this movie spoke their lines like fembots without the emotion chip upgrade. There was a lot of surrealism in this movie. (See: Subtext?) For instance when Elle Fanning gets to do her big show she has a dream where she makes out with two of her clones or copies or duplicates under the tri-force of power. Weird necro make-up lady works with models and corpses. (See: Subtext?) Elle Fanning’s entire reaction to a 13-year-old girl being raped right next door to her and her almost getting raped by weird make-up necrophiliac lady is to put on make up and give a speech over a pool. The other models show up at weird corpse fucking make-up lady’s house yet there was no real indication that these people had any more of a relationship outside of the modeling business. And it was not clear that they “eat her.” After killing Elle Fanning all the girls are showering in blood but these was no dialog or scene indicating that they did not do anything else but murder the girl. Except when the model threw up the eye, but even then that didn’t seem to make much sense. She was down with murdering this Elle Fanning and getting rid of the corpse but suddenly gets all sick about it to the point of killing herself in the end?
And lets not forget the forgettable throw-away characters. Christina Hendricks comes and goes and has very little impact on what passed for the plot. Same with the boyfriends who comes and goes and has very little impact on the plot – except he’s seems to be an older guy who doesn’t mind dating a girl that clearly states she’s under age. There was no point to Keanu Reeves, or the rape of the younger girl, or the attempted rape of the main character, or her murder. This was a movie where shit just happened and nothing seemed to come of it except shit happening. I expect that from an action movie, not a movie like this.
Neon Demon – Guess what, I didn’t like it.
Other reviewers talked about this being a think piece or up to interpretation. Fuck that noise. A movie should be something close to straight forward or at least pretend to be. You should be able to understand what’s going without going to the Movie Spoiler website. Yet even Movie Spoiler put more plot in this movie then the actual movie bothered to have. For instance I had no clue that weird make-up lady and the other two model eat Elle Fanning until Movie Spoiler said they did. There most certainly wasn’t Sweeny Todd with all the girls at the dinner table having slices of Elle Fanning for brunch. I thought the bathing in blood scene was weird corpse fucking lady’s dream, or someone’s dream. I don’t know why the model at the end got sick off of fried Elle Fanning, because there was nothing the movie to show that these women were capable of this, or did it before. You know, like a line of dialog somewhere with someone talking about the last up-and-coming-model who went missing or was found with chunks of missing body parts? Maybe a quick glance at a newspaper article or a face on a milk carton. There was nothing. Instead this movie relied on lots of pretty colors that served no purpose and a shit load of subtext.
The bottom line is when Showgirls has more intelligent things to say about beauty and sex and rivalry, you’re movie is in trouble. When Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in more straight forward and clear than your movie, your movie is in trouble. When The motherfucking Craft tells a better story about conflict between women and female self-esteem, you’re movie is in fucking trouble. There is a reason why this movie came and went without a splash or even a ripple. It was weird, boring, bland and about as shocking as Donald Trump saying something racist in a speech. My recommendation, avoid this movie like the plague. The only thing that stops it from being the worse movie I’ve seen this year was Batman v Superman happened and nothing has topped that piece of shit from being the biggest turd in the 2016 toilet bowl. At least not yet.