THE NEON DEMON
"One morning I woke up and realised I was both surrounded and dominated by women. Strangely, a sudden urge was planted in me to make a horror film about vicious beauty. After making Drive and falling madly in love with the electricity of Los Angeles, I knew I had to return to tell the story of The Neon Demon.”
--Nicolas Winding Refn
--Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon opens with an artfully posed--and apparently dead--female body, subject to the cold, hard male gaze, and its mechanical extension, the camera.
Much can be gleaned from that single, provocative image regarding some of Refn’s thematic concerns for this, his 10th feature.
“Once you hit 21 in this industry, you’re so irrelevant.”
Following Jesse (Elle Fanning), newly arrived in L.A. to try her luck as a fashion model, The Neon Demon--which began its developmental life under the title I Walk with the Dead--is Refn’s first attempt at a horror film, and it certainly is that, albeit a horror film as told through the filter of the NWR aesthetic.
“True beauty is the highest currency we have.
“Now, without it, she would be nothing.”
My first brush with Refn’s work was Fear X, which, honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled about. I had missed his earlier titles, Pusher and Bleeder, as I also subsequently missed the Pusher sequels, and Bronson.
I checked out Valhalla Rising, but again, like Fear X, it didn’t quite take with me.
But Drive changed all that. Drive was the NWR title that solidly kicked my film geek a$$.
And though his follow-up, Only God Forgives, was not as well-received by the wider film critic community, I absolutely loved it.
So when word broke about his next film being a “horror movie/sex thriller,” I was so in.
And now, after a title change and two female co-writers brought on board (British playwright Polly Stenham and Mary Laws, who’s also written for AMC’s Preacher adaptation), here we are, and I am so happy that my film geek love for Refn continues unabated.
“You know what my mother used to call me? ‘Dangerous.’
“‘You’re a dangerous girl.’
“She was right. I am dangerous.”
With familiar genre faces that include Jena Malone and Keanu Reeves (as skeezy dirtbag motel manager, Hank), and another killer Cliff Martinez soundtrack, The Neon Demon is slick, disturbingly erotic, and hallucinatory, much like the fashion industry itself.
It’s about appearances and facades, and the casually cruel nature of the modeling business, where everyone is merely meat, complete with respective expiration dates.
“I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t write. No real talent.
“But I’m pretty… and I can make money off pretty.”
Parting Shot: Given its setting and subject matter, this is a perfect companion piece to ¡Qué horror! 2015 title, Starry Eyes.
(The Neon Demon OS’ courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com, dailydead.com, impawards.com, and shocktillyoudrop.com.)