THE NEON DEMON
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.