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SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews - Jamie Gra­ham

re­leased 8 July 18 | TBC min­utes Di­rec­tor Ni­co­las Wind­ing refn Cast elle Fan­ning, Karl Glus­man, Jena Malone, Bella Heath­cote

“Beauty isn’t ev­ery­thing, it’s the only thing,” says a de­signer in Ni­co­las Wind­ing Refn’s lat­est, a hor­ror movie set in the LA fash­ion in­dus­try that fea­tures home in­va­sion, can­ni­bal­ism and les­bian necrophilia. It’s a phi­los­o­phy that in­forms the film it­self, which is ev­ery bit as fab­u­lous-look­ing and empty as the world it de­picts.

Jesse (Elle Fan­ning) is the lat­est small-town girl at­tracted by the bright lights of LA. Stay­ing in a ratty mo­tel run by the lech­er­ous Hank (Keanu Reeves, sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive), she ap­proaches a mod­el­ling agency and is told she has what it takes to be “great”. The agency’s top snap­per agrees to shoot Jesse; he of course looks like a vam­pire who might punc­ture her neck with his cheek­bones. Such at­ten­tion is enough to get mod­els Gigi (Bella Heath­cote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee) ac­cen­tu­at­ing their pouts. Jeop­ardy, it seems, is ev­ery­where she turns. But Jesse warns that she is stronger than she looks, and as her dreams ce­ment into re­al­ity, she hard­ens…

Im­age after im­age wows. It’s the high-end style of Drive and Only God For­gives taken to the nth de­gree, and there’s an ar­gu­ment that in The Neon De­mon, form is con­tent – vivid ex­te­ri­ors, va­pid in­te­ri­ors. It’s a per­sua­sive the­ory but also rather lets Refn off the hook.

That hol­low heart would be more tol­er­a­ble if The Neon De­mon dis­turbed as much as it daz­zles. There’s noth­ing here to match the soul-shak­ing ter­ror of Bergman’s Per­sona or the fore­bod­ing of Lynch’s Mul­hol­land Drive, key in­flu­ences both. Still, at least Refn elic­its ner­vous laugh­ter where he

Im­age after im­age wows

can’t score gen­uine scares. When the graphic scenes do fi­nally ar­rive, you just know that the arch prankster is gig­gling be­hind the cam­era. Cru­cially, we laugh with him, the OTT gore and pueril­ity of his pal­pa­ble glee in smash­ing taboos prov­ing in­fec­tious.

While film­ing, Fan­ning dis­cov­ered she likes the taste of movie blood. “It’s very cough syrupy. I want to put it on pan­cakes.”

Some games of domi­noes can get quite vi­o­lent.

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