Review: The Neon Demon


One of the many striking things about Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film, The Neon Demon, is how heavily it builds itself on the fusion of soundtrack and imagery. It is the first indication that we are in Only God Forgives or Valhalla Rising territory where static framing with and sonic force reign supereme, more-so than Drive or The Pusher Trilogy, although to be fair, both all of his films show a wonderful proficiency on setting a distinct rhythm to the storytelling.

The Neon Demon is a foremost a mood piece first. Refn’s fellow countryman, Lars Von Trier is fond of abstract filmmaking challenges informing his cinema, and here Refn seems to want to take one of the most blunt storytelling cliches, “Hey, the fashion industry sucks the life out models and turns human beings into sickly ghouls,” and the challenge is to apply such brilliant cinematic craft to the proceedings, like the make-up and gemstones constantly being brushed onto Elle Fanning’s visage, to make it appear more than what it is, even, and this is important, if the raw talent has always been there. With this film, appearances are not the goal it is the raison d’etre.

And through an delightful alchemy of influences – David Lynch, Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick and Dario Argento are all distinctly quoted – Refn not only pulls it off, he makes it look both inevitable and easy. It is as if the films glittery closing credits (highly reminiscent of the best of the James Bond title sequences, or David Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo opener) are saying, “Yea, all movies are made this way, aren’t they?”

Forgive the gushing, The Neon Demon was more than a bit of a balm after a pre-summer warm-up of sequels extruded at great cost with the aim mainly to tease for the next installment in the franchise. The few exceptions, Fury Road, Ex Machina and Chi-Raq, in isloation, serve as reminders that pop-entertainment does not have to be vanilla or focus grouped; it can be ghastly, challenging and visceral. Refn practices what he preaches, with all the one liners in the film espousing the theme of, ‘Everything worth having is worth a little pain.’ If the movie is pulling you out with its juvenile dares, stick with it, the back nine is a jaw-dropper. He is being both earnest and ironic such that down is up and up and down. To live in the recent films of this filmmaker is to live in a world that is too intense and too abstract to be real. In other words: Cinema. But unlike typical offerings from the dream factor, this is cinema where life lessons and morality (and definitely good taste) are un-tethered.

I wonder if this is what John Boorman was striving for with Zardoz before it collapsed under the kitschy weight of Sean Connery in a big red diaper and fuck-me boots? Refn borrows the prism of the mind sequence from that film, But I digress.

Back to the soundtrack. After two seasons of The Knick, Martinez’s retro-future-current-right-now jangle of electronic sounds and instruments haunts my dreams. I am not sure if the goal was for Vangelis-on-Ecstasy or KMFDM-on-Quaaludes, but it is somewhere in that space, and it sure hits the spot. Combined with the framed-tableaux cinematography – surely The Neon Demon started as a feature length expansion of that weird shot in Drive of all the fashion models motionless in their underwear in a weirdly lit nightclub that Ryan Gosling purposefully strides through – it is an immersive experience that transcends any semblance of Hollywood business-as-usual.

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Friday One Sheet: The Neon Demon

I can’t stop posting marketing materials from Nicolas Winding Refn’s forthcoming feature, The Neon Demon. This one is from the prolific Mondo imprint, who always take a less marketing driven approach and go for something a bit more artistic. The inverted triangles are well featured in the film, so that design element makes sense, and otherwise, the geometric, sterile weirdness is entirely the tone of the film (which, btw I’ve seen and is one of the most brilliant uses of tone and structure since Mulholland Dr.). A strange choice to go black and white when the film is all about the use of colour, but in our photoshopped and instagrammed filtered world, a black and white poster, with no shades of grey, certainly stands out in a crowd. As does The Neon Demon.

DVD Review: Evolution

Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Screenplay by: Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Alante Kavaite, Geoff Cox
Starring: Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier
Country: France, Belgium, Spain
Running Time: 78 min
Year: 2015
BBFC Certificate: 15

Nothing to do with the 2001 sci-fi comedy of the same name, Evolution is an art-house horror film of sorts from Lucile Hadzihalilovic, the director of Innocence. I usually like art-house genre crossovers, so I thought I’d give this a shot.

Giving a synopsis is tricky as this is a highly unusual film. It opens with a young boy, Nicolas (Max Brebant), swimming in the ocean where he sees the dead body of a boy under the water. No one believes him, but we soon begin to realise that all is not what it seems in this seaside community and something suspicious is going on between the inhabitants. Speaking of which, for reasons never explained, the only residents of this village seem to be young boys on the brink of puberty and their ‘mothers’, who mainly seem a little too young to be so. The boys just play on the beach all day whilst the women tend to their needs, giving them ‘medicine’ at regular intervals and preparing their suspect looking meals. The plot thickens further when Nicolas and some of the other boys are taken to a hospital where they are treated for an unnamed ‘illness’.

I won’t go in to too much more detail about the plot as that would be spoiling things and, to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what the hell was going on half the time. It’s a most unusual film. On one side this plays to the its strengths, presenting an incredibly mysterious story which you can’t second guess. On the other side, it makes the film quite difficult to maintain a grip on. This isn’t helped by the minimal dialogue and cold, expressionless performances. The presentation is art-house with a capital A in that sense.

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After the Hype #144 – The Witch



Hide ya babies, hide ya twins! This week we’re joined by our pals Hunter and Samantha to talk about the best horror film of 2016 – THE WITCH.



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Trailer: “31” from Rob Zombie

I sort of enjoy Rob Zombie’s bat-shit insanity in his horror films. He has a great director’s eye for horror and has some cool concepts and characters. But the writing is usually atrocious. And why does Sherrie Moon Zombie have to be the lead in every damn one of these things? I don’t know; I feel like I should like his stuff a lot more than I do. And to be honest, this trailer just looks kinda… dumb. A real shame.

After the Credits Episode 191: Littlest Hobo Media Spew – May

If we're lucky, this is the end of these ridiculous mashups

If we’re lucky, this is the end of these ridiculous mashups

We’ve seen stuff! Really!

Much of the TV we usually watch is either on hiatus or about to disappear on summer break so this month, Colleen, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) touch base on a couple of finales, share thoughts on some recently seen movies, books and the usual rundown of podcasts!

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Poster: Kevin Smith’s Yoga-Hosers

What’s going on in the View-Askew universe* in the last couple years has mostly escaped me. Kevin Smith has run aground with interesting creations as far as I’m concerned; so I had no idea that his next project (which already screened at Sundance) was a kids film in which a couple of teen yoga enthusiasts battle “an evil presence” (something to do with miniature, Nazi Canadians).

Reviews have been less than great and if this marketing is anything to go by, I guess I’m not surprised. That said, this movie probably wasn’t made with the usual Smith fanboys in mind. It’s a film that appears to be geared towards younger teenage girls to OMG about – the critics voices maybe shouldn’t be taken as gospel at this point.

Still, judging by the trailer and the poster featured below, I feel like there is an intentional campiness on display from Smith here. Did he just not care about the project or are the effects supposed to look like an early 1990s after-school special and the poster supposed to look like early 2000s straight to DVD cover? I don’t know what’s going on here, but if I had to venture a guess, Smith has just given up.**


You’ll be able to judge the movie for yourself (or not) on July 29th. The starring leads are Lily-Rose Melody Depp and Harley Quinn Smith (yes, that is Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughters), and also features the likes of Johnny Depp, Kevin Smith, Haley Joel Osment, Vanessa Paradis, Adam Brody, Justin Long, Tony Hale, and Jason Mewes among others.

*I realize that not all of his movies are View Askew productions. That’s just what I call Kevin Smith movies.
** I’m pretty excited about Clerks III though.

Blu-Ray Review: Too Late for Tears

Director: Byron Haskin
Screenplay: Roy Huggins
Starring: Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea, Kristine Miller, Don DeFore, Arthur Kennedy
Country: USA
Running Time: 99 min
Year: 1949
BBFC Certificate: PG

As promised, here’s my review of Too Late For Tears, Arrow Academy’s other recent film noir re-release, alongside Woman on the Run. Like the latter, Too Late For Tears was not a financial success at the time of its original release and its production company later went bankrupt. This lead to the film being relatively lost, hovering around only in poor quality public domain copies. Luckily, the UCLA Film & Television Archive got their hands on a French 35mm nitrate Dupe Picture Negative (where the film was named La Tigresse), the only preprint element known to survive. They polished up the film and Arrow Academy are releasing it to us lucky folk in the UK on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD.

Too Late For Tears opens with a preposterous but nevertheless enticing premise. Husband and wife Alan (Arthur Kennedy) and Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott) are arguing whilst driving down a windy road at night. They almost crash into someone then get a mysterious bag thrown into their back seat. They soon realise the bag is filled with cash and decide to drive off with it, shaking off the rightful owner’s car that quickly appears behind them. Once home, Alan thinks they should give the money in to the police, but Jane disagrees. She’s clearly not happy with the way her life is going at the minute, but the surprise arrival of all this money revitalises her. Determined to a frightening degree, she will stop at nothing to keep the money. Even the arrival of Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea), whose car the money should have fallen into, doesn’t dissuade Jane. In fact, she manipulates him into helping her get the money from Alan, who has put it away in a locker for safe keeping before calling the police.

Of course, it’s not going to end well for anyone…

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Blu-Ray Review: Woman on the Run

Director: Norman Foster
Screenplay: Alan Campbell, Norman Foster
Based on an Original Story by: Sylvia Tate
Starring: Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Keith, Ross Elliott
Country: USA
Running Time: 77 min
Year: 1950
BBFC Certificate: PG

I love a good film noir. So much so I didn’t scour my usual sources to see what the reviews were like for Woman on the Run before requesting a copy to write my own, I just asked for a screener because I knew I’d enjoy it to some extent due to the genre. Also, I wanted to help promote Arrow Academy’s release of this (and Too Late For Tears which I’ll also be reviewing soon) because I feel like the UK have had a bit of a raw deal for classic film noir releases over the years. I rarely see any titles other than the big names show up in my local HMV and many haven’t made an appearance on DVD, let alone Blu-Ray, other than in horribly transferred cheap releases from those films now in the public domain. So I hope if Arrow sell a few copies of these they’ll mine the vaults for more gems to polish up to their usual high quality.

Woman on the Run was released in 1950, right in the midst of the genre’s heyday. It begins with Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) taking his dog out for a walk when he comes across an argument in a parked car. The argument soon becomes a murder and the trigger man takes a couple of pot shots at Frank before he drives away. Frank gives the police a brief statement on the scene, but when he learns that the man killed was due to testify against the notorious gangster Smiley Freeman, he gets scared and runs away. The police, on top of wanting his statement to help lock up Freeman, are worried for his safety so go to Frank’s wife, Eleanor (Ann Sheridan), for help in finding the man. She’s not keen on doing the police any favours though, as it’s clear the couple aren’t enjoying a happy marriage. However, she does want to find him herself, so heads off into the heart of the city (San Francisco) to track him down. The police of course put a tail on her and the tabloid journalist Dan Legget (Dennis O’Keefe) tags along to get a big scoop. The latter ends up helping Eleanor out as she gets further along in her investigation, but his intentions gradually become rather suspect.

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