The Neon Demon (2016): Slow and Weird (Review)

Elle Fanning The Neon Demon

Written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, The Neon Demon is, beneath its slow weirdness, a cautionary tale and a horror film that creeps up on the viewer. At just under two hours the film seems much longer and it seems to be almost a love letter to Italian maestro Dario Argento’s Suspiria

The action in this tale of a young talentless beauty “I got looks (sic) and that’s worth money” who attempts to break into the modeling business in Hollywood, is a 180 degree twist to the Ryan Gosling/Emma Stone vehicle “La La Land.”

Unfortunately the film moves at a snail’s pace and Refn tends to drag out his visuals that bit too long.  The director specializes in scenes that take forever to get through, sometimes with minimal dialogue, and while it works on some films, like “Drive” and Only God Forgives it only serves to frustrate and bore in The Neon Demon.

The acting, which is spot on by Elle Fanning as the new kid in town, along with Keanu Reeves and Christina Hendricks (in a blink and you’ll miss her cameo) is a bit hit and miss.  The only other performer who raises the bar is Jena Malone (The RuinsSucker Punch). Desmond Harrington (Wrong Turn, Ghost Ship) looks ill and the two other models are wooden in every sense of the word. 

Reeves is particularly good as the douche motel manager “214 has got to be seen” who seems too impressed by the 13 year old “Lolita” who just checked in.

Fanning, who is starting to steadily outshine her sister Dakota, is brilliant as the slightly vapid teen who wants to become famous and rich on the virtue of her looks alone. As the character tells her male friend, she cannot act, sing or write, so it is her natural beauty that must pave the way to her fortune.

Unfortunately, there is an all too familiar sense of doom to the youngster who seems to be heading on the right track. Everyone she meets is weird or at the very least damaged and we can feel that this will not end well for anyone.

Refn has pulled out all stops here. There is a taste of lesbian necrophilia, some cannibalism and scene that seems to suggest that female models are not better than dogs. (Think of canines and their disgusting habit of eating regurgitated “food.”)

The entire film has a “bad dream” quality to it that is in keeping with Refn’s near somnambulistic delivery, started with Ryan Gosling’s almost narcoleptic performance as the driver in “Drive” and continued with his later role in “Only God Forgives.”

Fanning’s character is, like Gosling’s, almost silent when it comes to everyday conversation. The young thing clearly is not thinking deep thoughts and if she were, could not explain them anyway. Jesse (Fanning) is slow on the uptake which makes her “end” not too surprising.

If there were any message at all with Refn’s latest effort it is clearly that “beautiful” people are not, as a rule, the sharpest tool in the shed. Ambition needs some smarts to back it up and Jesse lacks the knowledge to really survive.

The ending is shocking, to a degree, but somewhat anti-climatic. The film is worth watching, especially if one is a Refn fan, and is available on Amazon Prime, if you are a member, or can be streamed/rented, if you are not.

The Neon Demon may not give you nightmares but the 3.5 star film will make the viewer think. On a sidenote, Keanu Reeves plays an unpleasant character very, very well: “Wider…”

Knock Knock (2015): Unbridled Hatred for This Film (Review)

Keanu Reeves as Evan

Taking a look at the IMDb reviews for Knock Knock; a remake of the 1977 film Death Game,  there appears to be an unbridled hatred for this horror/thriller with Keanu Reeves as the victim in this female home invasion picture. There are a number of complaints that range from Keanu’s acting to the storyline.

The original film starred Sondra Locke (Clint Eastwood’s main “bit on the side” for years) and was released the year after her first starring role in an Eastwood film. The Outlaw Josie Wales. Death Game also starred Colleen Camp and Seymour Cassel who  was the Reeves character in the film. Both women are producers on this updated remake of the first film.

Co-written and directed by gore-horror maestro Eli Roth, Knock Knock follows nice guy Evan’s trials and tribulations with two “teen” vixens who invade his home.  His wife and two children are away, it is Father’s Day and he is alone. 

Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bell (Ana de Armas) waste no time trotting out the sexual innuendos and then broach the  subject bluntly and directly.  43 year old Evan does not stand a chance as his middle aged hormones kick in and he has sex with the two girls. 

It is a trap.

The two young nymphs set poor Evan up and when he goes to call the police they reveal that they are underage. Threatening the husband and father with charges of statutory rape and prison, they rule the house.

Over the course of the night, Bell and Genesis murder someone, torture Evan and film him having sex with Bell who has real daddy issues.  It is a game that they have played often and not one man has turned them down.

Some of the problems with this film have to do with its timing and the casting of Reeves as a successful but helpless victim. With the reinvention of Keanu as a man of action and all around tough nut, his hapless DJ floundering about while trying to escape is a bad fit.

Dialogue may also have contributed, along with  the way it was delivered. Evan screaming out “You f**ked me” and “You’ll make me deaf,” were laughable.  A sort of whiny accusatory “you started it” and a baseless fear that combined to make the victim a little detestable.

The bottom line is Evan knew that having sex with the girls was wrong It was only afterward, when they pull out the underage card, that he admits it. His failure to call the police immediately may not have saved him, but it would have made the audience respect him a bit more.

It is hard to see just what is so reprehensible about the film. Surely feminists can get behind punishing those men who believe they can do what they want with women.  Making Evan suffer for his cheating action must have pleased someone in the female camp.

Knock Knock may be the opposite of misogynistic, which is, in case there was any doubt, known as misandry, but in reality it goes much deeper than that.

The film is, at its core, a cautionary tale. One that warns of letting strangers into your home, no matter how attractive and friendly they are.  Do not open your door to strangers. Having sex with someone who is not your wife is a no-no.

Beyond these apparent messages, and going back to the writing again, Reeves’ character is not the sharpest tool in the shed.  Nor is he the most masculine.  Evan flailing about for the gun, his baby knocks against the bookcase and being overpowered not once but repeatedly by the women in the house, makes him a disappointment.

Knock Knock may be an unsatisfying experience for many. However, if one views the film as the darkest of black comedies, it works. Director Eli Roth plants the seeds subtly.

“This is NOT a dream” is written on the bedroom mirror with lipstick. Later, in another scene, Genesis, the mirror scribe, wears a t-shirt with “It Is All a Dream” across the front.

To Evan, no doubt, this is not a dream but  a nightmare, one that he will not wake up from. His actions will live on and on and on.

The final clue that this could be a blacker than black comedy is the final line spoken in the film.  Evan’s son leans in and peeks at the shattered remains of the living room and says “Dad had a party.”

For whatever reason, there is a lot of hate for this film.  Remembering the original Sondra Locke film, it also suffered from a lack of motive but reading reviews on the Internet comes off a little better. Although in this version the women have been, apparently, stalking Evan before hand. “Monster.”

Knock Knock is not a horrible film. It certainly does not deserve all the hate it has received.  There are issues but overall all it still works, but only as a black comedy.

This one earns 3 stars, but only just, and is worth a look just to compare it to the original film.  It is rated ‘R’ for violence, nudity and some simulated sex. The film is not one for the kiddies to watch. It is currently  streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Constantine: Rage of Caliban (Recap and Review)

Constantine: Rage of Caliban (Recap and Review)

Constantine: Rage of Caliban continues to improve with each viewing and the main protagonist’s Englishness, in an American setting is refreshing, although the reactions to his British phrasing does not go much past the art of ignoring what they do not understand or looking blankly at Matt Ryan’s Constantine when he uses words like “shirty,” at the schoolyard scene. This iteration of the comic book character is much more like his literary origins. John is more a “Jack the Lad” type (An English phrase that means the individual likes his drink, chasing women and partying.) who plays as hard as he works. Early in this episode, Constantine wakes up in a woman’s bed, a bit worse for his alcohol intake the night before and when she says he must leave as her boyfriend is coming, John says she did not mention a boyfriend “last night.” Her response is that yes, she did.

John Wick: Keanu Reeves Leaving Neo in The Matrix (Review/Trailer)

John Wick: Keanu Reeves Leaving Neo in The Matrix (Review/Trailer)

Keanu Reeves is on top form in John Wick, not only giving his 1994 film Speed a run for its money but leaving his character Neo back in The Matrix in this adrenaline fuelled action thriller where Reeves plays the ultimate bad-a** John Wick. The plot, in a nutshell, has the retired hitman struggling to deal with the love of his life’s death. His wife, before she dies leaves her husband a puppy, so he will have something to love. Enter Isosef Tarasov son of Viggo Tarasov, who is the old boss of Wick. A chance meeting at a gas station has the boy offering to buy John’s car, he refuses and the Russian mobster comes back, beats Wick, kills his dog and steals his car. When Viggo finds out what his son has done, he arranges to have Wick killed.