The Neon Demon: Psychedelic, Hypnotic, Bloody & Twisted – My Thoughts

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect going into this one…I knew I was going to get something disturbing but I may not have quite been prepared for what I got. The short answer, I love an indie like this and the more I think about it, the more I liked this film…

The Neon Demon is a film that has something to say. It’s not just a fun, entertaining ‘good time at the movies’ like the majority of this summer’s releases have and look to be. It’s also one of the most unique films you’ll see all year. The style is truly something to behold with enough bizarre and brilliant cinematography, mesmerising, psychedelic lighting and hypnotic music to satisfy any movie-goer. What The Neon Demon does very well however is use this style to symbolise its substance. This is certainly a film that critics and analysts will enjoy picking apart as it seems every scene of it had something to say or added an interesting point for the audience to think about.

I wouldn’t say The Neon Demon is patronising in any sense. It can certainly be viewed simply as a disturbing and mesmerising tale of a young model in Los Angeles but I came out of the screening knowing there was a lot more to it than that.

The film focusses on Jessie (played wonderfully by Elle Fanning), a young model who becomes very successful almost overnight. Designers and photographers take a significant, almost intense interest in her due to her natural beauty and pure, innocent look as opposed to the majority of surgically enhanced models whom one designer says ‘can never have true beauty’. That is just one aspect of the film however. It certainly makes comment on humanity’s vanity and obsession with image and does that both in its message and in its stylistic choices where it uses elongated voyeuristic scenes both to show the somewhat perverse nature of the characters and to tempt the audience into looking themselves.

The other aspect is a much darker one than simple voyeurism.

The whole film constantly has this psychedelic and hypnotic aura to it which seems to suggest the idea that LA is like a drug to these characters. A drug that they can’t get off and a drug that causes them to do unspeakable things. The ‘Neon Demon’ of the title is the city itself.

I won’t go into exactly what unspeakable things are committed in this film but it certainly made me feel rather uncomfortable. It should be said that Jessie herself never fully becomes as horrific as some of the others however there is one particular scene (arguably the best in the film) where we see her transformation from a pure, innocent girl to knowing she’s the one they’re all jealous of which is truly mesmerising to watch.

The rest of the cast, including Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee and Keanu Reeves are all great in their roles too, each playing their part in creating these perverse and twisted characters and making the audience feel as disturbed as director Nicolas Winding Refn wants us to feel.

If you are not a huge fan of heavily stylised films and/or do not have much of a stomach when it comes to blood or dark subjects, then The Neon Demon may not be for you. But if you are intrigued by all this, then I would highly suggest you go and see it. You will not see a film quite like this one for a long while.

As far as things I had a slight problem with within the film, the final 10mins come to mind. Not that they didn’t add that extra bit of disturbing horror to proceedings but I felt that a perfectly coherent story was fully told before then. I definitely appreciate what the final few scenes did in solidifying the horrific nature of the characters within them but would I have still been satisfied without them? Sure.

This may very well be Nicolas Winding Refn’s best film. He is mainly known for his pairings with Ryan Gosling in the well-received movie ‘Drive’ and the slightly less well-received movie ‘Only God Forgives’ but I think this one was just what I was looking for going in. A disturbing, hypnotic, ‘difficult to describe’ movie is always one that sticks with you…and The Neon Demon will definitely stick with you.

Be sure to let me know your thoughts on The Neon Demon in the comments and check me out on Twitter and Instagram. Also, if Horror’s your thing, check out the HorrorHouse Podcast on Twitter or listen on YouTube!!

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