Original films are hard to come by nowadays. It seems as though everything is being remade and people don’t want to see their favorite movies get butchered. This isn’t always the case but remakes are either right on the money or they miss the bullseye completely. It makes us wonder: Where are all of the new ideas? Well, you don’t need to look any further as The Neon Demon will certainly quench your thirst for originality.
The Neon Demon is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, director of the 2011 Oscar-nominated film Drive starring Ryan Gosling. So, I’m sure you can imagine the bar being set pretty high for his future work. Released on June 24th, 2016, did The Neon Demon live up to its high expectations?
The story follows Jesse (Elle Fanning) as she is doing her best to break into modeling. The world is her oyster, besides the fact that she is only sixteen years old, unsure of herself, and desperately alone as her parents just recently died. With her being so young, she has to lie about her age in order to model. That doesn’t really matter though because every audition she walks into, she lands the job within seconds. She quickly befriends a make-up artist named Ruby (Jena Malone) who introduces her to two other models, Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee Kershaw). They’re jealous of Jesse from the get go because to them, 21-year-old models are considered washed up. The other models’ jealously only grows as time goes on, because Jesse’s beauty, fresh face, and natural talent have her standing out among the rest. In one scene, Sarah says to Jesse, “What’s it feel like? To walk into a room, and it’s like the middle of winter. You’re the sun.” Jesse has it and everyone wants what she has.
This is a very dark and disturbing film. Despite its darkness, the cinematography lights up the screen with vivid colors. I absolutely loved this concept because it is a complete contradiction. The contrast adds a whole new element to the horror genre. Horror movies do not always need to be dark and shadowy to be effective. Speaking of horror, you may find yourself wondering if this is a horror film. The answer is yes. Although it’s rather slow getting there, it’s well worth the wait. The Neon Demon is a movie that will keep you entertained by stunning you visually. Then, when you least expect it, the film will grasp your mind and make you question what you’re really watching.
Along with the amazing cinematography, the music in this film is super cool. The majority of it is techno based but it fits very well with the overall tone and bright colors. The Drive soundtrack is one of my favorites so I had high hopes that the music in The Neon Demon would be great, too. I was not disappointed.
Performance-wise, Elle Fanning takes the cake – not just because she is the star of the film but because her performance is amazing. The Neon Demon is a work of art that she can be proud of. We haven’t seen her star in many horror films, so it was cool to see her do something new. Keanu Reeves also appears in the movie, as Hank, the manager of a run-down motel where Jesse stays. I wish there had been more screen time for him because I felt more could have been done with his role. Keanu will always remain awesome in my book, though. Malone, Heathcote, and Kershaw give memorable performances as well. They are the epitome of the catty girls in high school that we all love to hate. The sad part is that they are grown women who place a lot of emphasis on looks. You know that saying, “Don’t care what others think.” Well, these gals most certainly do care a little too much. Good job to this dynamic trio who solidified my decision to never go into modeling. I never perfected my runway walk anyway. Oh, well.
The Neon Demon will definitely have people talking. Some will find it offensive while others may find it confusing. It all depends on how the viewer interprets it. For me, the story wasn’t completely cohesive but that didn’t take away from the experience. For the last 20 minutes of the film, I was glued to my seat and as a fan of horror, I felt satisfied with the conclusion. As I mentioned before, the story was very original. I do not think it is Refn’s best work but I would love to see what else he could come up with for another horror movie. Go see it – I would love to hear your thoughts about it!