Spoilers will be eerily lit.
I’m chasing the cinematography trend lately so it was unavoidable to run into this feature. This film is one of those that feels weird on the first watch and intriguing on the second. There’s no debating the visuals are incredible. I was surprised to learn that director Nicolas Winding Refn is color blind, which is the reason why he uses such high contrast in colors. The effect is stunning.
The Neon Demon (2016) was written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. It stars Elle Fanning as Jesse, a young hopeful that has come to Los Angeles to pursue a career in modeling. She befriends makeup artist Ruby (Jenna Malone) and makes frenemies with experienced models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee). As harsh as the life of an aspiring model can be, Jesse soon finds doors open for her easily. Dean (Karl Glusman), an aspiring photographer trying to break into the business himself, is smitten with her.
Jesse’s big dreams seem to become reality easy as she lands a contract with a famous agency headed by Roberta Hoffman (Christina Hendricks). Her luck does not go unnoticed by the other models. Meanwhile, her stay in a low rent motel is getting complicated by the seedy manager, Hank (Keanu Reeves) and some strange incidents. Actually, it’s all strange incidents from here on. This is one of those movies in which we don’t get an explanation but we sure get some strange yet beautiful imagery.
The story is not hard to follow. I know it does go into eerie territory at the end, but it doesn’t completely come out of left field. The strangeness does eventually go into a crescendo, but we’ve been having incrementally bizarre visuals throughout. There are some disturbing images that will alienate the casual viewer. I am not the first to say this, but the film visuals do have a bit of a sci-fi flavour. The ambient music is definitely leaning us that way.
This is not an expose on the modeling world, but it is a visual experiment playing with the over heightened beauty standards imposed on women. Horror only comes as a realization and it’s a very slow burn. There’s an otherworldly feel to photoshoots and modeling catwalks. It does have suspense, but not really scares. It can be disturbing to watch in a way that might turn off a few people but barely lift an eyebrow from shock cinema enthusiasts. It’s more eerie than shocking.
Highly recommended for great visuals and cinematography with reservations. The performances of Elle Fanning and Jenna Malone are outstanding, but also rather intriguing and in some cases, very problematic. How much so, and whether it is for an audience or not, it’s difficult to say. I don’t think it’s shocking for jaded horror fans. I think there’s a lot of beautiful imagery combined with bright lights and blood – some meant to be fake and some to be real. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That will do for now.