Film Review: The Neon Demon Is Stunningly Freaky

The Neon Demon is a “Hitchockian” look into the ugliness of beauty. Based in the modeling world, the film involves sex with corpses, cannibalism, and rape as some of its chosen themes. Many have used the word depraved and grotesque to define the film, but the movie saves most of its “eek” moments  towards the end: when you realize you have watched a 2 hour art film that is based on perception.

Neon Demon is stunning in terms of visuals. The plays on lighting and set placements are complete homages to model photography. Each scene feels like a photoshoot, which is perfect for the films’ theme. Certain scenes were so beautiful, I was in awe, especially when compared to some of the other, visually rough scenes ahead. On cinematography alone, this film is a masterpiece. The symbols director and writer, Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), uses throughout scenes will be fun “catches” for intellectuals that will devour this film for its several double meanings. Hence, The Neon Demon is an excellent choice for people whom enjoy analytical films that uses fantasy to reflect reality. Moreover, the acting is superb.

Lead Actress Elle Fanning (Jesse) is quietly vicious and brings a new shade to Fanning’s talent. Beyond the “doughy” eyes, is a young woman that knows she is beautiful and can use “pretty” as a tool of manipulation. At first, you feel for her perceived innocence, which is why her slighted showings of arrogance come off so ugly. As she continuously repeats how people want to be her, you want to roll your eyes at how inadvertently she is gaining enemies. In her eagerness for glory, she ends up encouraging fatal envy from others. Also, sharing the screen in revealing the “ugly” of pretty is Abbey Lee whose role of Sarah will reveal to viewers how inner brokenness turns into malice.

Ultimately, you attack what you are or wish to be, and Sarah goes straight for Jesse’s natural beauty. Lee is magnificently vulnerable and seeing her evil be caused by her own pain is spiritually uncomfortable.  There are moments when you want to pause the film and take Sarah and Jesse to the side to question their emptiness and lack of morality. They are like painted shells that only ooze emotion when they feel another mask has been painted prettier than theirs. It is soulfully tragic Their feud is the opening for director and writer, , to introduce his bloodied surrealist fantasies. Admittedly, there are moments when you will not know what is real or not, or question why so much blood is needed. There are definite gross moments. Yet, it is clear that Refn wants to show how wickedly competitive people can become over materialistic, superficial reasons. Moreover, he wants to exemplify the sadness of soul that only defines itself by its body.

Jena Malone as Ruby is another subtle enthrall for the film. She is the “nail on the coffin” of Refn’s incessant theme: an ugly soul is not covered by a pretty body. Yet, she elaborates the sadness of that . Her sexual frustration and fantasies are some of the gruesome and depressing images you will see. Like Lee, Malone uses her character to exhibit how inner pain will always manifest into outer ones for both yourself and others. Although Jesse is no saint, seeing a 16 year old girl being “eaten alive” by this industry is rough. She, in the end, a child, with no knowledge or room to turn her self-awareness into self-love. Something all these model and the beauty industry of Refn needs.

The Neon Demon will not be a film for everyone, especially those with strict views on morality and what should be screened. Refn pushes the envelope to show how weak it truly is. For all beautiful images we try to portray and amplify. there is a darkness that cannot be quelled by the superficial. The Neon Demon speaks to this fact in the freakiest of fashion. Yet, despite the film being a matter of taste, the soundtrack by Cliff Martinez is massively appealing. It will make you feel like you have entered a club scene from American Psycho. It is hypnotic, eerie, and an adrenaline note of grace throughout the film. The minute that baseline hits, it will drop into your soul and take you into the picturesque yet deadly world of The Neon Demon’s Los Angeles.

  1. The Neon Demon Will Be Released On June 24. For More Information Click Here