The next episode of Scary Thoughts is going to be about The Neon Demon. Critics were pretty mixed on this one, but I really enjoyed it. One reviewer I read threw it in with films he calls “Kubrick Kitsch.” That would be stylized new efforts like It Follows and maybe even The Witch.
That seems as good a name for this emerging horror movement as any other. I’ve been alternating between calling it Synth-Horror or Auteur Horror. The shared elements are quirky/beautiful muse leads, good soundtracks (often electronic), strange plots, lots of symmetry, good acting, and tons of style.
I can see the Kubrick influence in Neon Demon, however, I really see the Alejandro Jodorowsky influence. I haven’t seen or heard anyone else talk about it.
The proportions of the actresses to the stark backdrops and electric geometric shapes reminds me of the kind of madness you see in Holy Mountain or El Topo. The dreamy decadence, twinned images, inversions, mysticism, and explicit sexual violence of Jodorowsky’s films seem to have had an effect on director Nicolas Winding Refn. Sure, these things can be found elsewhere, but not as luridly colorful or transgressively odd.
I decided to re-watch the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune to get a quick download of the older director’s visual palette and was delighted to see Refn is one of the few directors interviewed. I had seen Drive and Valhalla rising when I saw this doc for the first time, but I wasn’t really much familiar with Refn. I hadn’t remembered he was even in this doc.
It turns out he is friends with Jodorowksy and has even had the rare experience of having seen the original book made of the unmade Dune film’s storyboard. Knowing the two directors have such intimacy, and hearing Refn speak about his friend, it becomes easy to draw lines of influence.
Both directors have extravagant, detailed backdrops. They each hit you over the face with nudity that’s designed to simultaneously titillate and offend. You don’t know whether to be turned on or repulsed. Sound is important to both directors, as is costume. Plot is there, but is in service to the image. Critics accused each director of running some sort of con on their audiences.
Could be true.