The Neon Demon
Out Now On-Demand
The wicked die young.
Elle Fanning leads this modeling thriller from filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) as an aspiring model who moves to Los Angeles where her youth, vitality, and naivety make her the target of others in the industry. Co-stars Jena Malone (The Hunger Games), Christina Hendricks (Drive), and Keanu Reeves.
- Nicolas Winding Refn('Pusher', 'Pusher II', 'Pusher 3')
Rating: R18+ High impact sexual themes
France, USA, Denmark
Bold, bloody, and kind of boneheaded, Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest isn’t for everyone. A wallow in the world of high fashion, it unfolds like a glitter-bombed nightmare.
The Neon Demon continues on the path Refn started down with Bronson, interested more in dream logic than narrative and filling the runtime with a simmering sense of dread. It contains his most avant garde sequences so far, reaching almost Lynchian levels of abstraction.
Playing a fresh faced ingenue, Elle Fanning isn’t too far out of her comfort zone, but she works wonders as a magnet for our sympathies, the camera honing in on the vulnerability in her face as she navigates this strange world of (primarily male) predators.
Like his fellow Dane Lars Von Trier, Refn is aware of the line he’s walking, taking his penchant for shock tactics right up to the edge of ridiculousness then cheerfully jumping over. He engages with his central ideas in such visceral ways that it can be easy to miss how aware the film is of its own ludicrousness. Like Von Trier, Refn just wants a reaction.
As befitting its subject matter, The Neon Demon looks gorgeous, each frame filled with primary-coloured eye candy. And its conclusions might be silly, but they’re distinctively Refn’s, presented with an intensity few others could manage. Certain images burn themselves into the subconscious, to re-emerge and be chewed over later. It isn’t for everyone, but adventurous viewers will find plenty to luxuriate in.
Los Angeles Times
New York Post
New York Times
The Guardian (UK)
NZ Herald (Russell Baillie)
A Superficial Film about Superficiality (Kind of)
Just finished watching and there's that trace of nausea lingering in my stomach. Which is a probably a consequence of the absurdity of violence and sexuality in, as well as my internal conflict about, this film.
The film's title is paired with something like a logo representing the director Refn, and I'm still trying to figure out whether or not it was purposefully done so to parody the brand culture of the fashion industry or not (I'll probably never find out).
Anyways, into the review.
Let's start with the goodies. The film's cinematography and visual style (for the most part) is undeniably beautiful, filled to the brim with symmetry and pretty colours and refreshing transitions and camera movements. It's style also adds to the themes of superficiality, which is very dominant in the film, and therefore has an excuse to look pretty. The electronic score is great, and put me into an almost trance-like state while watching the film. I really liked the symbolism in the film, and how these symbols, almost like extended metaphors, gain more weight as the film progresses (which is symbolism well-done). The majority of the film is carried out creatively, with an atmospheric and slow-burning approach that works very well here. The shock factor's raised pretty high, perhaps to the point where it feels a bit "edgy", but it definitely contributes to the overall enjoyment factor.
My problem lies within two things: the script, the "pretentiousness", and the credits sequence. First of all, the script stumbles and falls a little in the second half, but remain mostly consistent for the most part; the ending is really where this film failed me. It felt pointless and unaffecting, and the film's shock value had become tiresome for me. It wasn't satisfying in the sense that it did little to change the film, but instead left you feeling empty, no questions or emotions apart from that consistent nausea as a result of the immoral absurdities portrayed in the film. The subject matter that many claim the film to be tackling feels broad and generalised instead of deep and profound, and the credits sequence felt as if it belonged to a different film entirely.
Despite all its problems, "The Neon Demon" was still enjoyable and has a lot to offer.
Beauty's only skin-Deep. But Ugly is to the bone...
Don't see this movie for things like plot, characterization, or subtle commentary. It seems to deliberately avoid them even as it comes on, with tongue in-cheek, like a Serious Art Film. See it, if you must, for its exquisite cinematography and atmospheric soundtrack: as a purely formal, sensory experience, The Neon Demon is indeed a trip. Director Nic Refn seems interested in only two things: using sound and image to hypnotize the willing viewer (at which he excels); and then framing the ugliest things he can imagine within this impeccably slick monument to empty gloss as a means of shocking us (at which he fails). All surface? Yup. That's apparently the point. Whether it's intended as a sick joke or, as some have argued, a serious philosophical inquiry of aesthetic "meaning" remains unclear. Whatever merit Refn's thematic intentions may have had, The Neon Demon doesn't work as a horror film, satirical or otherwise: it's only in the final third that things turn literally diabolical and, by then, it feels like so much calculated taboo button-mashing (I, for one, was frustrated rather than disturbed). Jena Malone deserves mention for making the most of a potentially humiliating role. The film is finally much like the stereotype of a teen model itself: achingly pretty but shallow, redundant, and rather boring.
Hard to swallow...
If you want to see a movie comprised solely of glossy bits-and-pieces and “whoa, cool brah!” moments, 2016 has given you plenty of choices. Perhaps none, however, is quite so stupid-to-the-bone as Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. It looks great and sounds even better, but (like its main character) is very hard to swallow without feeling the need to purge. Absurdly literal, hysterically pretentious, very, very dumb and, ultimately, quite boring. Considering the subject matter, that’s quite some achievement.
The price of beauty is hyper-vanity, deadly jealousy and a smattering of bright red cannibalism
There is something innately intriguing about the film title The Neon Demon (2016). Perhaps it’s the tension between neon brightness and evil darkness that draws us like moths to a flame or maybe it’s the imagined devil coming into the light. In any case, the imagery is perfect for what is a parody thriller-horror about the shining promises of the fashion industry and the dark dangers that lurk within for the innocent young. This is a grim tale about the worship of unattainable perfection and the belief that “true beauty is the highest currency we have”. The price of beauty in this film is hyper-vanity, deadly jealousy and a smattering of bright red cannibalism, all of which makes The Neon Demon an original addition to its genre.
The opening scenes compel the voyeurism that is lifeblood to the fashion industry: a reclining young model dripping with blood while flashbulbs immortalise her beauty into captivity. Sixteen year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning) has just arrived in Los Angeles and lied about her age to get into modelling. She stands out for her wide-eyed ‘deer in the headlight’ naivette and ephemeral other-worldly beauty and is immediately noticed by fashion industry exploiters and lesser mortals. With feigned innocence that disguises her inner narcissism, she is quickly preyed upon by human and other predators.
It’s pointless to describe specific incidences or plot twists as this mashup montage of horror, thriller, and melodrama is all about atmospheric metaphors. Several scenes are composed with pure artistry and Jesse is the artwork. Her friends turn out to be enemies and nobody in this industry cares for anyone except themselves. It is a world of pixels not principles, and everything is false image and silicon-pumped body parts to shame other women into buying empty promises. Again we are reminded “beauty isn’t the only thing: it’s everything”.
What makes this film so engaging is how Jesse seems to float angelic-like across such a brightly lit but ugly canvas. Different makeup styles depict her variously as a Grecian goddess or a metallic super-woman while those around her remain trapped in the ordinariness of their bodies and their lives. The mascara-thin values that drive the models are glorified with high-glamour photography, only to be revealed as a facade hiding a primitive blood-lust and taste for human body parts. Elle Fanning plays her part with softly-spoken understatement but overwhelming aesthetic presence. This is a clever film with several surprise turns that leave you guessing what will happen. Perfect viewing for anyone aspiring to be a model.
Edgy and bizarre but fascinating
The director who has produced other fascinating film which live beyond the edge of strange and are constantly moving behind or above your expectation, does it again with this beautifully crafted subtle horror flick. Gorgous bodies of fashion in a world of subtle pain and fright, seldom gross enough to drive one away or safe enough to relax. If it's your cup of tea you'll enjoy the brew.
The Neon Demon: in a single word, Hypnotic!
I have to say NWR keeps amazing me. Part of me, didn't want to like this. I know that may sound weird, and I don't really get it, but it's how I felt when I hit play.
But pretty soon, I was mesmerised, then almost hypnotised by the music, the slow burning camera shots, the world he creates.
The Neon Demon is Winding Refn's 2001 Space Odyssey.
Everyone is great in it. Fanning and Malone are of course outstanding and Aussie actress Abbie Lee definitely stood out for me. Great performance!!
The soundtrack (which may be my favourite NWR so far!) and the cinematography, in my opinion, is genius!
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