REVIEW: "Neon Demon"
I'm going to keep this one spoiler-free. I will always endeavor to do this whenever possible; after all, I'm trying to recommend a kick ass movie that you haven't seen yet.
"Neon Demon", 2016, directed by Nicholas Winding Refn.
I admit that I hadn't heard of this director except in passing on various nerd sites, most notably AICN (who love the fuck out of him). Upon further research, I realized that I had seen one of his older movies when I worked at Blockbuster (RIP, oh great video store giant). It was called "Bronson", and it was about Britain's most notorious and violent criminal, Charles Bronson. It was violent as all get out and well shot. It turns out this director is the son of Danish director and a DP. That explains that.
The tagline on "Neon Demon" is a good one: "Beauty isn't Everything. It's the Only Thing."
Really gets your attention, doesn't it? It sure got my attention. This movie is categorized as both a thriller and a horror film. The story is all about Jessie, an orphaned young girl from Nowhere, USA who comes to the Big City to become a model. She's played by the hopelessly beautiful Elle Fanning with aplomb. In scene after scene full of carved and chiseled bean poles straight from the pages of Vogue young (like, 16 years old and lying about her age) Jessie shines uncontrollably. This should be a breakout role for her. I kid you not.
The supporting cast is stellar- Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Keanu Reeves (you'd better know who he is), Desmond Harrington (Dexter), and a slew of beautiful models.
What really captured me right out of the gate were two distinct qualities: the Suspiria-like cinematography/musical score and the overhanging sense of dread. You can tell Jessie is in the proverbial lion's den and she's so naive it's appalling. The way everyone around her looks at her is openly atavistic. She's the prey, but her story is so sad and she's so lost that she doesn't even know it.
Admittedly, I was wondering where the horror came into play as the film approached its final third. The thriller part I got in spades, but where was the blood and gore? Where was the shock? For that matter, where was the nudity and aberrant sex so often hinted at in the depraved, beauty obsessed world of big-time modeling?? Big Daddy needs something that delivers the goods, after all. Well.....I got it.
When this fucker turns it turns really, really fast. Taboos? Bring it on. Shock value? Sure thing. Don't watch it with someone else unless you have a very comfortable relationship. It gets a little uncomfortable. The final scene really gives you an eyeful.....and a mouthful. It's not Human Centipede or anything, but it's playing ball in a totally different arena.
The statement made here about beauty and what people will do to achieve it, keep it and control it is quite strong without being heavy-handed. It didn't beat the modeling industry over the head with all of its flaws, but let's face it....the modeling industry does a fine job of that already. The fact that my own daughter has a very Elle Fanning-esque quality about her natural beauty made it a gazillion times creepier.
I'm calling this one elite level fucked up in the best way possible. If you can't be comfortable being highly uncomfortable watching a film then you're more of a casual movie fan. I get it. We're not all "movie buffs". This one WILL turn some folks off. It's definitely a love it or hate it kind of movie.
I'm damn glad I watched it. Make of that what you will.