By George Nethercott (Chester, UK)


Nicholas Winding Refn remains one of the few directors today who just films whatever he wishes. For me, his film catalogue consists of some great films and some particularly bad films. The Neon Demon comes somewhere in between – either way it is an improvement from Only God Forgives (2013). With all this in mind Refn still does not achieve the greatness he had with Drive (2011), as audience we are once again left patiently waiting.

The Neon Demon follows Jesse (Elle Fanning) pursing fame and fortune in the modelling industry. Jesse is young, naïve, and most of all, naturally beautiful. It’s only when she finds herself among many other female predators (Jenna Malone, Abbey Lee, and Bella Heathcote) that envy, lust, and tragedy sets in. Somewhere Keanu Reeves is also present in this film (much to my confusion) portraying Hank – a motel owner. On paper the films plot seems straightforward, however, the film is layered with many symbols and metaphors under a canvas of stunning Refn-style-cinematography. When further explored, it becomes apparent that Refn wants to experience something more – we have to sure under the artsy cracks for answers. Is this film making a statement about the fashion/modelling industry? Is this film supernatural in a way? Is this simply a thriller or something more? Who knows…

Moving onto the cinematography you can expect to see all of Refn’s typical traits. Vibrant colours, glossy finishes, and of course, glorified gore. I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t visually pleasing, but at the same time I just couldn’t help myself from thinking that the all the other elements in this film just weren’t raising the same bar as these beautiful shots. The runway scene especially is one the for the casual LSD user – it’s psychedelic and symbolic. Refn forces you to look deeper into his colour scheme. We see Jesse in a blue tint reflective of her success, only then to transition into red which can only but hint at a dark end. This is all well and good, however, for the casual film-goer they won’t appreciate these moments. The films score is actually very fitting. With every notable scene Cliff Martinez provides the perfect sound to capture the moment.

If someone was to ask me what I will remember from The Neon Demon, it is the final act. In one word it is mad. What Refn wants to achieve in this film is shock value. The contrast in tone from the opening acts to the final moments are huge. It’s suddenly dark, disturbing, and utterly disgusting. As an audience we are left sitting there wondering what we have just experienced. In a way this is a victory for Refn. He wants viewers to wonder and ponder at the possible yet not probable explanations for the final sequences. It may all just be a ploy to add re-watch value. However, in a nutshell The Neon Demon is a very experimental thriller for which some people may get very little from. Others may receive a great deal.

Rating: 3/5



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