Monday, September 12, 2016

The Neon Demon (2016)

 Nicolas Winding Refn


Nicolas Winding Refn
Mary Laws
Polly Stenham


Elle Fanning
Jena Malone
Bella Heathcote
Abbey Lee
Christina Hendricks
Karl Glusman
Desmond Harrington
Keanu Reeves
Alessandro Nivola
Charles Baker
Jamie Clayton


A sixteen-year-old aspiring model named Jesse moves to Los Angeles in the hopes of becoming a famous model. When casting agents and designers start taking notice of her potential, she begins getting work. As she starts rising in the ranks against older and more experienced models. She soon comes into contact with three women, one, a makeup artist and two are beauty-obsessed models. All three of the women hatch an insidious plan to devour Jesse for her youth and vitality.

When I first got word that Nicolas Winding Refn was going to direct a horror movie about a young aspiring model who comes to Los Angeles and is literally devoured by the industry, to say I was excited was an understatement. For months and months during the pre-production of the film, I kept tabs on the casting and any little bit of news that was released about The Neon Demon. I loved NWR's movies Drive and Bronson, so I had high hopes going into his latest effort.

After repeated watches of The Neon Demon. The movie has grown on me the more I watch it. I think when I initially saw the film, while I enjoyed it more than I didn't, I was left somewhat disappointed. After many months of hyping the film up, I was left pretty dissatisfied with the overall story. While it follows a narrative of sorts, it's very thin like the beauty-obsessed and vacant models that are found littered throughout its story. While there is some resemblance of a plot, its left to one's own interpretation of the events depicted.

In stating an opinion like the one that I did above, where I have claimed that the plot is waiflike. Someone else may find a much more profound message than the one that I did with The Neon Demon. I think for me that the overall story is a depiction of how the modelling industry, Hollywood, and fame will literally chew you up or eat you alive and spit you out. NWR isn't one for being subtle, and I think he smacks you over the head with the message. It's all pretty clear to me what he's trying to say here.

Where The Neon Demon succeeds is on a visual level. This has to be one of the most stunning looking horror movies I think I've ever had the pleasure of sitting through. From the very first frame right up until the screen fades to black, the movie is a work of art. You could splice every frame from the film and put it an art gallery as every single frame is mesmerising to look at. Throw any insult you desire at this movie but to attack the film on a visual level would be a flat-out lie. You aren't likely to find a more gorgeous looking horror film this year.

Where the film lacks a cohesive plot, I think it makes up for by propelling the movie from scene to scene with this colourful yet morbidly fascinating surrealism. I believe NWR was hugely inspired by Dario Argento when making The Neon Demon. I've heard the comparison before that this film is very similar to Suspiria in tone and it shows all over this movie. The film's use of colour is one to marvel. I believe that Dario Argento would watch this and be proud.

When it comes to the horror element of The Neon Demon, this movie indeed delivers. Instead of giving the audience buckets of gore and violence, the movie slowly builds on tension and concludes in a bloody showdown between the four models. There are a few moments in the film that will turn people's stomachs. The film touches on taboo subjects such as necrophilia, cannibalism, and paedophilia. I think many viewers will find The Neon Demon to be quite polarising and disturbing.

The acting is also fantastic. I believe Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, and Abbey Lee all deliver the bravest performances of their respective careers. Just wait until you witness Jena Malone here. She easily has the most twisted and disturbing scene in the movie and to go to the places that she does, she deserves an award for her role in the film. Keanu Reeves is also at his most perverted. His scenes made me uncomfortable. We also have Desmond Harrington and Christina Hendricks delivering in smaller roles.

Lastly, the soundtrack and score are brilliant for the film. The score from Cliff Martinez matches the visuals perfectly. The soundtrack has this pulsating electronica that feels like it injects the movie with this energy which also goes hand in hand with the new-wave synths that conjure up images of the eighties and the neon aesthetic. The only soundtrack that I've purchased in 2016. One of the best scores that I've heard since Mad Max: Fury Road.



- A woman is shown laying on a couch covered in blood.
- A woman cuts her hand, and another woman tries to drink her blood.
- Someone pours antiseptic into a wound.
- An injury is stitched up.
- A knife is put into a woman's throat.
- A woman defiles a corpse.
- Someone is pushed into an empty pool and cracks their head open.
- Someone is seen bathing in blood.
- A woman is consumed by three other women.
- Someone vomits up an eyeball.
- A woman disembowels herself with scissors.
- Someone consumed a vomited up eyeball.

The Neon Demon is a movie that I'm completely torn on. While I think the film lacks when it comes to telling a basic story, it makes up for in nearly everything else. The acting is fantastic as is the soundtrack, visuals and gore in the movie. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of horror filmmaking I think I've ever witnessed. The movie will be one that divides audiences as it's done with myself but in time, I think I may grow to appreciate the film even more.


  1. Agree on where you mention that this movie is a let down. Also love the score for the miovie.

    1. A year on, this film has grown on me. Visually stunning and disturbing. It took a little while for me to fully appreciate it.