Kicking the Tweets

The Neon Demon (2016)

Who're You Wearing?

Before seeing The Neon Demon, I'd just about given up on Nicolas Winding Refn's films. Not only did I not click with Bronson and Drive, I outright despised them. I wondered, was I somehow deficient in my inability to appreciate these widely lauded works? Or had everyone else simply fallen for the latest pretentious art-house It Boy?

My biggest complaint about what I’ve seen of Winding Refn’s work has been his penchant for daring audiences to call him out on the shameless re-gifting of classic movies in film-snob wrapping paper. He has a brilliant eye for casting, and is a master of turning mash-ups into immersive audio/visual experiences. What is Bronson if not A Clockwork Orange meets Oz? What is Drive but The Transporter meets The Sopranos? Winding Refn’s movies tend to stop an hour before the end credits, and often devolve into staring contests and/or violent outbursts designed to keep the audience from snoring.      

Now that you know where I stand, here’s the bombshell:

I fell hard for The Neon Demon, a truly unsettling and unpredictable take on the allure of wealth, power, and fame. Elle Fanning stars as Jesse, a sixteen-year-old girl who lands in L.A. with modeling aspirations. She meets a photographer named Dean (Karl Glusman) online, who creates a ghoulish portfolio of Jesse as an exquisite corpse sprawled glamorously across a couch. An agency head (Christina Hendricks) takes notice, and Jesse instantly finds herself the envy of seasoned, catty models Gigi (Bella Heathcoate) and Sarah (Abbey Lee).

The film's title is not a metaphor for the entertainment industry. It refers to an actual sinister presence in the story that manifests as a triad of glowing inverted triangles. The demon seduces, possesses, and consumes innocence in the most chilling cinematic life cycle since the Xenomorph. Winding Refn and co-writers Mary Laws and Polly Stenham amplify everything we know about Corruption Movie tropes and Monster Movie tropes, while also taking sharp left turns at almost every given opportunity. The result is a film that feels like the slickest, sickest version of films we’ve already seen.

If Bret Easton Ellis had written a Black Swan-inspired reboot of The Devil’s Advocate while Suspiria played in the background, with Under the Skin’s score pumping through his earbuds, the result would look a lot like The Neon Demon. The clouds settle in gradually, as Jesse’s mixture of naivete and almost accidental self-awareness* are seized upon by an ever deepening bench of depraved, superficially charismatic parasites. She accepts one small temptation after another, until her beacon of virtue has been dimmed enough to allow the demon a sufficient opening. Once inside, the monster uses Jesse as a smorgasbord instead of a meat puppet, reveling in each bite of soul-degrading humiliation.

You might expect a traditional battle of wills at this point, perhaps with Dean fighting off a black-goo-dripping doppelganger of his would-be girlfriend, and screaming, “I know you’re still in there, Jesse!”** Or maybe Jesse wrestles control of herself from the monster just in time to triumph over Sarah, Gigi, and sinister makeup artist/former BFF Ruby (Jena Malone). That might well have happened, had Winding Refn and company not launched the third act into the fifth dimension. Without spoiling the climax, I’ll say The Neon Demon throws tradition out the window in the last thirty minutes, exploring (but never stating) the conditions that allow the monster to thrive. Jesse remains very relevant to the story, but the filmmakers make it very clear that this is not her story.

This is a multi-layered film about the intersections between art and commerce. There are many avenues to pursue here, but I’ll touch on three that stood out most:

1. Jack (Desmond Harrington) is a famous fashion photographer who gives Jesse her first bit of exposure. During their only scene together, Jack clears the set and demands that his subject disrobe, right before he cuts all the lights. Jesse complies, and we are left to wonder if Winding Refn will actually "go there".

He does, and the scene plays out as an intense sexual encounter--not between a man and an underage girl, but between an artist and his materials. Jack has fed the beast long enough, and to such an effective degree, that he is permitted to go to any extremes he desires, even using human bodies as canvases. As Jesse is painted, posed, and transformed from person into project, the scene's mood changes from one of terror to a kind of celebratory liberation. The interplay between Fanning, Harrington, and the camera is sensuous, frightening, and daring; it's everything art should be.

2. With a jawline that would've make Michelangelo weep, Bella Heathcoate's Gigi is conventional beauty personified. She casually rattles off the various nips, tucks, sucks, and flushes she's undergone in a quest to essentially replace every part of her body--inviting us (and Jesse) to wonder what the original Gigi even looked like. Heathcoate appears to be a natural beauty, which makes her character even creepier. By not making the actress up in cartoonish prosthetics or bandages to drive home the extensive work she's had done, Winding Refn makes a darker point about our inability to trust what we see.

Gigi and Sarah remain in the middle of the fashion-model food chain, which is as good as not being on it at all. They depend on being molded, photographed, and sold in perpetuity; Jesse's arrival on the scene pushes up their expiration date, and not even sycophantic loyalty to a renowned designer (Alessandro Nivola) can save them from the human clearance rack.

3. Hank (Keanu Reeves) runs the fleabag motel in which Jesse lives. He's a gatekeeper for the titular monster, and his real job is to maintain a steady stream of "talent" for it to feed on. Dozens (maybe hundreds) of young hopefuls arrive in Los Angeles every day seeking fame and fortune. Some get fast-tracked to an agency within thirty-six hours, like Jesse; others wind up in the room adjacent to hers, turned out by violent opportunists. The purest sustenance rises to the top, while the run-off strains through Hank's gunked-up mesh filter before eventually lining the crusty basin of Hollywood lore.

Cliff Martinez’s score rounds out the film’s superb visuals and infinitely edible themes. Its eerie hybrid of his Drive synth and the otherworldly bio-beats of Mica Levi’s Under the Skin score evoke equal parts dread and romance—a highly effective aural metaphor for the titular monster’s dark enticements. The movie and soundtrack end with Sia’s haunting pop anthem “Waving Goodbye”, which pulsates like a brain-eating worm; the rhythms are upbeat, but there’s something disturbing about the vocalist’s sullen delivery that reminds me of the duality of Gigi’s striking beauty and rotten insides.

As unlikely as it sounds, Nicolas Winding Refn has directed one of my favorite films of the year so far. It takes a deft touch to comment on the vapidity of an industry built on artifice—without the commentary itself becoming stale. I don’t know if I was missing this touch in the filmmaker’s other work, or if his latest is just the perfect vehicle for his knack for super-charged appropriation. The Neon Demon is a near-religious cinematic experience that ate me up and spit me out.

*She claims to not be good at anything except looking pretty.

**Shades of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.


Growing Up with Manos: The Hands of Fate (2016)

The Artistry in Disaster

As a kid, I watched Son of Svengoolie with my dad, and learned what I thought was a profound lesson about the only two kinds of movies in this world:

1. The ones that played in movie theatres

2. The schlock-of-the-week that popped up on TV shows like this, in which wacky hosts made bad films better by telling jokes over them.

In my teens, Tim Burton's Ed Wood shifted my perspective. I'd assumed that the guy behind big-screen studio weirdness like Beetlejuice and Batman would turn the storied production of Wood's sci-fi flop, Plan 9 From Outer Space, into a farce. True, Burton played a lot of the material for laughs, but by peeling back the onion of Wood's struggles so thoroughly, he created a seminal and sincere piece of art about what it means to be an artist.

Around this time, an employee at HBO Downtown discovered a VHS tape of a long-lost film that had only screened once, in an El Paso, Texas theatre in 1966. Manos: The Hands of Fate was, at the time, an obscure, nothing picture, forgotten by time and neglected by those who'd worked on it. The tape made it to the offices of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the rest, as they say, is history.

One of MST3K's most enduring episodes, the Manos critique showed the film to be almost unwatchable, even with witty commentary from stranded space travelers Joel Hodgson, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot. A cult following was born, and the film seeped into the pop psyche, thanks to bizarre characters like Tom Neyman's The Master and his awkward, dirty servant, Torgo (John Reynolds).

Jackey Neyman Jones and Laura Mazzuca Toops' Growing Up with Manos: The Hands of Fate gave me another Ed Wood moment: Until I was invited to review the new making-of book, I'd never seen the movie on which it was based. I made up for this glaring oversight by watching Manos twice in a month--once before reading the book, and once after; the first time without the MST3K accompaniment, the second time with it. At the end of this experiment, I had a whole new appreciation for the film.

Growing Up with Manos is Neyman Jones' episodic account of acting in the film as a six-year-old girl; of reconnecting with the film decades later; and of mending her strained relationship with her father, “Master” Tom Neyman.

Neyman Jones and Mazzuca Toops open their story with Jackey's account of a frantic 1993 phone call from her dad, who'd happened to catch Manos on Mystery Science Theater late one night. Like everyone else, the Neymans had assumed the film was lost to time, but there it was, resuscitated by the airwaves and breathing strange, new life. The authors bookend the story in 2015, nearly twenty years into a bona fide pop subculture that has spawned tribute songs, plays, a video game, and a lawsuit over who has the rights to make a sequel.

The journey from Point A to Point B began with the relationship between businessman Harold P. “Hal” Warren and artist Tom Neyman. Warren fancied himself a mover and a shaker, with tenuous connections to Hollywood. He saw El Paso as an untapped creative community, bursting with the potential to become a new entertainment hub between coasts. Warren recruited Neyman and his colleagues from El Paso's Festival Theatre to help him make a movie, promising mathematically untenable back-end percentages and a calling card for their beloved community.

The Neymans forged the lion’s share of Warren's dream. Tom and his wife (also named Jackey), had created a progressive artistic paradise in their home, raising their daughter to appreciate acting, jazz, and mixed visual media. Warren talked the agreeable family into starring in his film, decorating the sets, designing and creating the costumes and props, and even lending their dog to the production. It was clear early on that Warren’s filmmaking skills were questionable at best. But he was so persuasive (and the promise of greater things for El Paso was so seductive) that the fictitious story of a con man building a wall of unquestioning human souls to insulate himself against a (justifiably) skeptical world became a reality.

The authors intercut the main storyline with nice little detours exploring how practically everyone on the film crew wandered into Warren's bizarre sphere of influence. Some are funny, some are probably amusing asides in the subjects' otherwise typical lives, but John Reynolds’ story underscores what is so damned special about Growing Up with Manos.

Reynolds was known in El Paso as a serious young actor and a troubled, gentle soul. Neyman Jones recounts her strong impressions of him as a giving person who treated the six-year-old girl on set with as much respect as his adult co-stars. As a character, and as a performance, Torgo is so utterly strange that it’s unclear how much of Reynold’s infamous stuttering, fidgety creepiness was his own creation, versus the result of poor direction and writing on Warren’s part. Only those that knew Reynolds would be able to say for sure, as Manos was the actor’s first and last film role. He committed suicide one month before it premiered.

This tragedy proved to be one of three ominous indicators that Manos would not be the big break everyone had hoped for. Between Reynold’s death, a disastrous rough-cut screening at Warren’s home, and a premiere event that could only have been made worse (or better) by a four-alarm fire, Growing Up with Manos expertly takes us from one one gut-punch to the next to the next. There's real drama here, real heartbreak, as a once vibrant creative community realizes their folly too late. The real-life Master's spell lifts abruptly, leaving them momentarily blank-eyed.

I appreciated Manos more after reading Growing Up with Manos. The added context doesn’t improve Hal Warren's misguided and shoddy film, but knowing how much sincerity went into the production makes it impossible to dismiss. Neyman Jones and Mazzuca Toops’ book is sincere, too, as well as purposeful, moving, and revelatory. Someone should make a movie out of it.


Evil Bong: High 5 (2016)

Exploitational Drugs

It's hard to admit, but I might be the target audience for Full Moon's Evil Bong movies. My only memories of the first three involve A) reviewing them, and B) meeting writer/director Charles Band and star Robin Sydney after a screening of Evil Bong 3-D.* I'm pretty sure I skipped the fourth film (entitled, you guessed it, Evil Bong: 420), but can't say for sure. I've never been stoned in my life, but I watched Evil Bong: High 5 a couple hours before dawn, on very little sleep, and fully appreciated the characters' aimlessness and giddy disorientation.

The film opens with series regulars/professional slackers Larnell (John Patrick Jordan), Sarah Leigh (Sydney), and Rabbit (Sonny Carl Davis) trapped in an alternate dimension ruled by the sassy and ruthless Evil Bong (voiced by Michelle Mais). Accompanying them are what I can only assume are hold-overs from the installment I missed: a woman named Velicity (Amy Paffrath) and a homicidal cookie-puppet called The Gingerdead Man (Bob Ramos), who's on loan from his own Full Moon franchise. Despite having the run of a pot-smoker's paradise, the gang decide they'd rather live on their own terms, and conspire to get back home.

Evil Bong has other plans, and threatens to separate the group for eternity if they don't help her take over Earth. She sends Larnell, Rabbit, and Gingerdead Man back to California with a mandate to sell a million dollars worth of ultra-potent weed in thirty days. Back in Bong World, two horny, topless lesbians keep an eye on the girls (who, naturally, are kinda into it--because that's the kind of movie we're dealing with).

From here, Evil Bong: High 5 becomes the version of Clerks that Kevin Smith might have made if he'd discovered weed before 2008.** Comprised mostly of stationary group shots and close-ups of people standing behind a retail counter or in front of a green screen, Band's film devolves into a parade of wacky-customer gags and an infommercial for his company's line of politically incorrect collectible dolls. Yes, one of the super-weed customers is a shady local businessman whose camera magically captures its subjects as slickly packaged action figures. When a trio of stereotypical gay filmmakers twirls into the store, we see the star of the low-budget-movie-within-the-low-budget movie re-imagined as a figurine called "The Butt Pirate". A picture-snapping Asian tourist becomes "The Gook". And don't get me started on the mask-wearing African pygmy, "Ooga Booga".

This is all way worse than it sounds, but I can't ascribe ill-intent to Band or anyone else involved. The movie is way too juvenile to be sinister, and I doubt its core viewers could be bothered to rise through the pot smoke and leave the couch, much less work up enough energy to hate. Like Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, High 5 is the most obnoxious kid at the kids' table, yelling obscenities across the room to get a rise out of the grown-ups.

Full disclosure: I found some of the writing to be quite funny. Not sharp, per se, but stupid-funny enough for some welcome pre-sunrise chuckles. My favorite: early in the film, Larnell's grandfather (Jacob Witkin) wanders into the store just to insult his disappointing young heir, at one point deadpanning, "You look like something a raccoon shat out after Halloween."

Even more surprising, I dare say Evil Bong's visuals have improved since the first film. The green screen effects are still dodgy, and the creature props still exist in the maddening gray zone between intentionally poor and ironically poor. But one shot in particular reminded me of a lush comics illustration: Rabbit blasts Larnell with Evil Bong's super-smoke, and the scene's purple and green lighting enhances the vapors coming off John Patrick Jordan's head, forming a swirling halo that looks like The Joker by way of Charles Burns.

High 5 is not the last Evil Bong film. The "spliff-hanger" of an ending and end-credits title-reveal promise as much. I can't say I'm looking forward to the next one, but I admire Band's persistence in reuniting this cast and crew every couple years to give his audience me a cheap, quick, and increasingly bizarre high.

*It was technically a 4-D experience, as we lucky patrons were given scratch-and-sniff cards with which to further interact with the on-screen antics. You can't imagine what that theatre smelled like. Or maybe you can.

**I haven't seen Smith's latest, Yoga Hosers, yet, but I had many flashbacks to the trailer while watching Evil Bong: High 5.


Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Fate Accompli

Why review Manos: The Hands of Fate? Why even watch it without the hilarious Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary playing over its interminable seventy minutes? The answer depends on whether or not you consider movies to be disposable entertainment, or an art form whose failures are just as important as its successes.

I watched Manos twice in a month. I went in straight the first time through: no commentary, no booze, no support group of joking friends. For my second viewing, I turned on the MST3K riff, and was joined by my wife, who busted out her phone after ten minutes, but was polite enough to stick around for the duration. This go-round felt longer than the first, thanks mostly to Joel Hodgson's running gag about the lack of activity in the film's opening scene. Had I really sat still for eight minutes while watching a convertible drove through Texas?

Despite Manos' pop status as the "Worst Movie Ever Made" it has stiff competition in Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Room, and Troll 2. It may be the worst of the three, which is to say, the most boring. But all four share flimsy stories, clumsy execution, and confused performances made comical by lousy dubbing. They also share a key component that knocks any of them out of the "Terrible" or "Worst" movie discussions: passion.

Yes, passion counts for a lot, and in Manos' case especially, one cannot discount writer/director/star Hal Warren's sincerity in trying to make a good movie. His premise is grounded in classic horror literature, and the film appears to have found some spiritual successors in later genre pictures: while on a road trip through the south, a family stops at a mysterious inn for the night. An awkward, creepy caretaker named Torgo (John Reynolds) welcomes the doofus husband (Warren), attractive wife, Margaret (Diane Mahree), their young daughter, Debbie (Jackey Neyman), and their dog. As the evening progresses, we learn that Torgo serves the nocturnal, spell-casting Master (Tom Neyman), who in turn worships the titular dark god Manos. The Hands of Fate becomes an epic conflict between The Master, who wants to add Margaret to his collection of undead wives; Torgo, who wants her for himself; and the unwitting family, who just wants to get back on the road.

Look to any big-screen iteration of Dracula or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you'll see a worthwhile execution of the material. In Warren's hands, though, Manos devolves into long takes between actors experimenting with clashing styles; a ten-minute wrestling match between catty servants in nightgowns; and characters hurriedly walking through the same two small sets, due to a lack of locations in which to film the "action".

In between these taxing stretches are some deliciously bizarre nuggets of performance, which helped Manos earn its reputation as a go-to trainwreck. Reynolds' Torgo is a genuinely bizarre creation. With his bulky minotaur pants, staccato line readings, and a wardrobe best described as "prospector transplant", he creates the film's most memorable character. His seduction scenes with Mahree (who looks like a young Katharine Ross) are icky and funny and sad. Had Warren kept up the skin-crawling weirdness of Torgo caressing Margaret's hair, Manos might have become a different kind of cult classic.

As it stands, the movie offers too few such flashes of unintentional brilliance. Instead, we're left with The Master skulking and sulking in a black robe emblazoned with giant red hands, cursing people while wearing what might as well be flip-flops. We're left with bickering models pretending to be actresses pretending to be characters engaged in a power struggle. We're left with a film that refuses to end, no matter how much we masochists scream or cry or hover over the Fast Forward button.

Still, Manos is not the worst film ever made. Not even close. This isn't even the worst film I've seen this decade. That honor belongs to Sexsquatch: The Legend of Blood Stool Creek. Both are, in their own ways, unwatchable, especially for the unadventurous moviegoer, who expects at least some level of mainstream competence each time out. The key difference, again, is passion. Hal Warren understood his limitations as a storyteller and as a filmmaker, but he rallied a cast and crew to make something that they could be proud of (or at least be of high enough quality to lead to other projects). The end result is a flawed work of art, to be sure, but there's nothing in the finished product to suggest it was a goof.

The people behind Sexsquatch set out to commit something to film, which they could then sell to the kind of LCD audience that might blind-buy it in the hopes of seeing boobs, blood, or both--maybe a good poop joke and a "retard" gag (or four). There's not an ounce of sincerity in the production; it's all silly wigs and foul language delivered through wacky Nickelodeon accents, and may very well have been filmed on a dare, over a long weekend at someone's summer house.

Before this era of deliberately bad filmmaking, one might have made a case for Manos: The Hands of Fate claiming a spot at the top of the heap. But we have a new standard now, a seemingly endless supply of Sharknados and Birdemics and WolfCops that seek to cash in on nostalgia for less sophisticated movies without understanding the value in the films they're aping. Hal Warren, Tommy Wiseau, Ed Wood, Claudio Fragasso--they all wanted to make the best of their limited abilities and resources. Modern DIY filmmakers have production studios and distribution channels in their back pockets, yet many get so caught up in homages and irony that it's hard for sincerity to even tread water. That's the worst. 

*Not to mention a bizarre set of double-eyebrows--one bushy, one manicured.


Finding Dory (2016)

Net Gain

I wasn't the biggest fan of Pixar's Finding Nemo in 2003. Revisiting the film ten years later with my son (a toddler at the time), I found myself on edge when Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) got separated from his son, Nemo (Alexander Gould). His titular quest resonnated more than the silly adventures that comprised it, and I was more than a little bummed when my boy decided he'd rather play with Cars (as in toys based on another Pixar hit) than finish the movie.

One of my initial problems with Finding Nemo, as I recall, was Dory, the sidekick/comedic foil to the perpetually worried and grouchy Marlin. Ellen DeGeneres was a little too perfect in her bubbly, amnesiac obnoxiousness for my taste, and I quickly came to cherish the moments when she wasn't on screen. Like many Pixar fans who react with hope but mild disappointment whenever the studio announces that its next project will be a sequel instead of an original idea,* I had doubts about Finding Dory. Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 proved that the studio can imbue anything with heart, groundbreaking animation technology, and reason to be, but later sequels like Cars 2 and Monsters University showed that not everything created by the juggernaut brand resonates with audiences.*

I really enjoyed Finding Dory in the moment, and my opinion of it grows day by day. It's the rare film that I think would be far more effective by losing twenty minutes, but it's hard to say which scenes deserve the axe. For every repetitive excursion into or out of a glass tank/pipe/aquarium, particularly in the second half, there is a magnificent comedic or dramatic punctuation that makes the not-so-thrilling bits worthwhile.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Finding Dory is part origin story and part mystery. The sequel finds Marlin and Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence) taking lesser roles as Dory sets off to find the parents she'd been separated from as a child, and for whom was searching when she entered the first film. Thanks to acute "short-term remember loss", Dory must rely on out-of-the-blue flashbacks to get clues as to where her parents might be--and to hold onto those clues long enough to follow up on them.

Much of the film takes place in the bowels of a massive California aquatic center, which greatly tones down Finding Nemo's color palette in favor of a murkier, more industrial look. It's a bold decision aesthetically and an important one, thematically. Director Andrew Stanton's last Pixar film, Wall-E, was set on a futuristic Earth ruined by junk, a depressing, toxic nightmare world that humans had long since ditched for shiny spaceships and an infinite celestial playground. That same sense of intrusion rears its head early on, as Dory, Marlin, and Nemo outrun a gigantic octopus lurking in the bowels of a wrecked container ship. As the camera revealed more and more about the spooky cargo and unoccupied posts, I couldn't help but think of the man-made disasters and missing airliners that have dotted the news landscape in the last thirteen years. I wondered if we'd see bodies, or hints of lost life, somewhere in all that rusty evidence of peril.

Of course, this is still a kid-targeted film, so there aren't any Jaws-style heads floating out of crevices. There are, however, much heavier ideas at play than just making one's way back home. I won't spoil what happened to Dory's parents, except to say that it bucks a major Disney convention while also delivering an implied history that's just as sad as what we were, perhaps, expecting from the plot. Finding Dory isn't Inside Out heavy, but it walks (swims?) the fine line between goofball entertainment and more challenging lessons that may not make it a parental go-to for long car rides.

On a related note, though the movie is 3D-animated, and is offered as a premium 3D-viewing experience, I can't stress enough that families see this in 2D. The technology's key disadvantage is a slight lack of brilliance while wearing 3D glasses. In the case of Finding Dory, with its selectively muted colors and numerous scenes shot in dark locales, the audience will need as much help as it can get in following the action and getting the most for their money. I haven't yet seen the 2D version, but I know a number of parent-critics who agree that their next screening will be glasses-free.

Don't worry: the film is far from a heavy existential-crisis flick. It hums with a fun stable of new supporting characters, including a surly "septopus" (a seven-limbed octopus, voiced by Ed O'Neill), an eager-to-please beluga whale (Ty Burrell), and a trio of greedy sea lions (Idris Elba, Dominic West, and Torbin Xan Bullock). I should also mention Piper, the transcendent, silent short film that precedes the feature, which (though unrelated to Finding Dory story-wise) offers a tidyl summary of its central theme: learning about one's inner strength by working with others to overcome fear.

Which brings us back to Dory. I couldn't stand her in Finding Nemo, but she's one of my favorite characters now. I can relate to her struggle of being stuck in a past she only kind of remembers. Whether this is a result of looming middle-age or a bi-product of Pixar's relatively new penchant for digging deeper into the adult aspects of their stories--I can't say. It could just be old-fashioned movie magic. Whatever the case, Finding Dory is more than just a sequel. It's downright remember-able.

*For the record, I really enjoyed Monsters U, and can't understand the hate. I saw half of Cars 2, and can see why it turned a lot of people off.