The Neon Demon
Beauty becomes insanity in Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, where aesthetics trump all in a gruesomely psychedelic hyper-reality horror set against the backdrop of the high-fashion industry. If you happened to watch the Drive director’s latest creation, you could be forgiven for leaving the cinema slightly confused: the expectation that it would progress more like your run-of-the-mill psychological thriller could be left stranded in a blood-bathed neon-lit room.
The story does somewhat follow the well-worn tale of a young and naive small-town girl: Jesse (Elle Fanning) lands in LA with hopes of using her looks to make money and finds herself rising to stardom, making herself known to her jealous rivals as she descends into narcissism, her innocence lost to the glamorous façade of LA, where beauty is power and being seen is everything. What Winding Refn has done, however, is take that story and unforgivingly transform it into an indecent and gruesome snapshot of unimaginable depravity, with scenes that push his viewers to the fringes of hypnotic seduction in a film that left audiences at Cannes this year thoroughly split down the middle.
What must be understood about The Neon Demon is that the Danish director has made no compromises to his cinematography. Accompanied by a spellbinding soundtrack of dark electronic disco conjured up by Cliff Martinez, this is a film where beauty is its focus, but obscenity is its equal companion. Each scene is painted, each line delivered with such deliberateness, it is hard not to be sucked into the world before you. While every character seems as caricatured as the last, from the seedy motel owner (Keanu Reeves) to the cannibal model duo (Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee) – and even the necrophilliac lesbian make-up artist (Jena Malone), which seems to border on absurdity – the performances are thoroughly commanding and central to the tense atmosphere Winding Refn creates.
When a movie’s true power lies in how the scenes are crafted it would be wrong to reveal them; suffice to say that they are expertly done and – although polarising – worth a viewing.
The Neon Demon is released nationwide on 8th July 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Neon Demon here: