Film Reviews

The Neon Demon (2016)


Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Karl Glusman

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

When 16 year old Jessie (Fanning) moves to LA and takes up a modelling career, she finds that her fresh faced natural beauty draws the jealous eyes of the models that both hate her and want to be her, and also the dangerous attentions of covetous photographers and designers who don’t always have good intentions. As she is drawn further into that world, she becomes addicted to her own persona and the attention she gets, but the obsessions she creates in others may be her down fall.

Pitched as a kind of horror thriller, the film is more of an art house psychological exploration of beauty and the obsession with fame. It’s a beautiful film, with each shot feeling like a film shoot or set from a dark edition of Vogue magazine, nothing feels like a real place. There were scenes that felt to me like old German Impressionistic horror films, and others that felt like film noir. And yet, with it’s neon bright colours and stylised shots, it feels a bit like the directors’ earlier film Drive and a bit like a Dario Argento horror.

On the flip side of all this beauty, is the really weird and the violent. This film in a lot of ways is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for murder, rape heard off screen, cannibalism and necrophilia. It is a Nicolas Winding Refn film after all. He loves this kind of thing.

I’m not sure if I really liked this film, but I think that maybe you’re not meant to. It’s kind of a hateful film about hateful people, glossed up as beauty. It’s one of those films where I felt fascinated and repulsed at the same time. I think it goes a bit far in overstating how women feel about each other and how far they would go for beauty, the film as a whole goes too far, but I can’t deny that this film has it’s interesting points. It’s not a bad film.

See It If: it’s an odd film, be prepared for some disturbing scenes, some art house visuals, it’s all a bit OTT, but if you’re OK with that, it has it’s rewards.


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