August 31, 2016

VOD Review: The Neon Demon (2016)

"Nicolas Winding Refn is back on the right track."
(aka Evil Little Girls.)
Release Date: August 30.
Country: USA
Rating: R
Written by: Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, and Polly Stenham.
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn.
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Keanu Reeves, and Christina Hendricks.

I really love Nicolas Winding Refn as a filmmaker. Drive is easily one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years; Valhalla Rising is a mesmerizing, haunting piece of work; and Bronson was just flat-out cool. Only God Forgives felt way too overindulgent and pretentious to me, as if Refn bought into his being hailed as a unique, visionary artist way too much. To me, he's a director like Terrence Malick in that he makes the kind of slow, atmospheric movies that he wants to, and he doesn't care if anyone likes them or not. He's got something to say, and he's going to say it exactly how he wants to.

That's both good and bad to me, as his movies are unique, visually stunning, and they most definitely push boundaries. They can also alienate viewers with their oddity, and above all else, the way that he uses sex and violence to get his point across. So, good and bad.

The Neon Demon is his most accessible film since Drive. It's also his most controversial, and depending on your taste in art, maybe even his best.

Nah, that's still Drive

Jesse is 16-years-old and gorgeous, and even though she's sweet, young, and naive, she moves to L.A. to pursue her dream of being a model. She signs with an agency who doesn't care that she's a parentless minor, and it's not long before she starts drawing the eye of everyone in the industry's hottest players, and lands a job. A job in which her naked body is painted up in gold by some skeezy photographer. 

Jesse makes quick friends with Ruby; the makeup artist with a heart of gold, who also happens to be a rapey pedophile who really, really wants to sex her up.  Ruby tries her best to help Jesse navigate the shark-infested waters of the modeling world, and to keep her safe from the likes of Gigi and Sarah, two fellow models who hate the fresh new face on the scene, and want to destroy her.

As Jesse gets more and more popular, and her ego grows to match her profile, things become extremely dire for her; everyone either wants a piece of her, or wants to break her down. I won't say anything else about the plot here to avoid spoiling it for you, but suffice it to say that it's a model-eat-model world out there, and fresh young ingenues lie Jesse really don't stand a chance. Unless they're dangerous themselves...

The Neon Demon is a meditation of feminine beauty. Or maybe it's about how women can be so obsessive over their looks. Or maybe it's about empty, shallow people who have nothing to offer the world but their beauty, and how there are always people out there who are happy to exploit that beauty. It's also the story of a beautiful young girl who is hated by her peers, because she makes them feel less wanted. And cannibalism. Possibly witches.

It's basically about fucked up people.

This movie is not going to be for everybody, and if someone said to me "This movie was a piece of shit and I hated it!" I would completely understand. It's sleazy, disturbing, and at times it feels like little more than an excuse for Winding Refn to jerk himself off, both artistically, and literally. There's a subtle beauty to the film though, as Refn and crew don't waste one single shot, and they certainly take their time setting the tone with each scene. Subject matter aside, it's a truly gorgeous film to behold.

As far as the subject matter goes, it's definitely an examination of the psyches of gorgeous models, and those who surround them. The girls are messed up enough with their shallow, vapid, empty world views, and it's interesting to see how they chew up and spit out everyone around them in pursuit of fame and adoration. The people around them are just as debased; some want to exploit their beauty, and some want to possess it. Some want to rape it. It's a creepy world out there for beautiful girls, even if sometimes they are their own worst enemy.

We started this movie thinking that it was about Elle Fanning's character. She's sweet and naive, and we just knew that she was in trouble. Then after a while, it felt like it was all about Jena Malone, and her predatory motives and disturbing habits. Then we were pretty sure that it had been about Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee's characters all along. The movie shifts gears, sometimes unexpectedly, and at the very least, that kept things fresh and unpredictable.

The cast all did a great job in this one, as the usually likable young lades who played the leads all managed to make us despise them equally. If there's one standout to us though, it's got to be Jena Malone. Her character arc surprised us, and she managed to skeeve us out in a way that we haven't been in a long time. She really committed to her role, and it shows.

As with most of Winding Refn's movies, The Neon Demon is an exercise in style over substance. There's plenty of substance to be had here too, but it took a backseat to the stylish visuals at many times throughout the movie.

Jena Malone, WTF are you doing?!? I asked that question out loud twice during this one.

Cannibalism, scissor violence, knife violence, attempted rape, flowing vagina blood, and that whole eyeball thing... this movie has plenty of gore and violence throughout, even if some of it is implied, rather than shown.

Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote take a shower together; Elle Fanning is sexually-charged; Jena Malone does her best to seduce, and almost rape, a 16-year-old girl; and then there's that other Jena Malone scene... This movie oozes sexuality and dysfunction, and some of it is downright horrific. 

The Neon Demon is a very artsy film, so that means that there's going to be some great dialogue, as well as some lines that feel pretentious as hell. In context with the scenes that they come from though, these are the lines that stood out to us.

  • "I need to get her out of me!"
  • "I'm a ghost."
  • "Room 214, it must be seen."
  • "She was right. I am dangerous."

The Neon Demon is an interesting movie that we could have easily hated, but somehow got us to really like it. Whether you will like it or not really depends on how you feel about Arthouse films; this is definitely a Horror movie, but it's also a very nuanced and visually-charged movie.

Rent accordingly. 


The Neon Demon is available now on VOD, and will hit Blu-ray & DVD on September 27th.

The Neon Demon showcases some gorgeous women, even if they are all up to some pretty horrendous things. They've even got their own Horror Hottie post which you can check out right over HERE.


  1. He's a stylish director but is a poor writer. Wish he would take someone else's script and just direct the hell out of it! (A la 'Drive')

    1. Same goes for Rob Zombie; they could both make some excellent movies if they'd just direct a good script by someone else.

  2. So yeah, I've seen Drive more times than I can count. The other 2, Valhalla Rising and Only God Forgives I thought were also fantastic. I could never sit through Bronson. But I'm a big David Lynch fan, so I'm used to style over substance. I'm just about to start watching this movie, so I'll let you know what I thought...

  3. I loved the shots! They're like glossy magazine spreads to me. Hehe. Elle Fanning is gorgeous suits her character so well. Also, the music is amazing! The movie has that familiar story but the visuals are really haunting. I still can't figure out what that "triangles" signify.

  4. Refn has the ability to mesmerise me with every film. As you said it's mostly style over substance, but the beautiful shots and the turns that this movie takes keep everything interesting until the end. Jena Malone was superb in this one, she owned every scene, fantastic job. As you mentioned, I got a lot of Suspiria vibes and it works really well. I liked Only God Forgives more than this one, and I think it's general concensus that Drive is Refn's Magnum Opus, but The Neon Demon is definitely worth a watch. Great review as usual guys, it's always a pleasure to read you.

    1. Thanks, Liquid.

      Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Refn's movies are hypnotizing.

    2. I think it was the subject in this one. Modeling is not my thing.

      In "Only God Forgives", it dealt with asian culture and I am into that, so I was taken in by it's beauty. Valhalla Rising
      was into Norse/Viking type settings, and that was also something that interested me, and again I was also mesmerized.
      Drive is a movie onto itself. I would put Drive up against ANY, and I do mean ANY old Hollywood classic, or contemporary movie that is on anybody's top list of best movies. Fuck, I'll put it against The Godfather and Citizen Kane. I don't think Magnum Opus is even a good enough adjective.

  5. This movie wasn't for me. Probably, I should stay away from movies directed by Refn.

    1. Not trying to give you a hard time, but the last 4 posts that you've made about 4 dif movies all were like this one. What kind of horror movie do you like? I would ask your gender, but really gender or country origin doesn't matter since I know people on boards from all over that enjoy these types of movies.
      You seem to be rather picky.
      Just saying. To each his own I guess..

      If I may ask, what is yourfav horror movie of the last 5 or 10 years? just curious...

  6. The legal age of consensual sex is actually 16 in most states, look it up.

    1. Yes, and actually younger if a pattern of dating is established, its consensual between both the girl and her parents.

      And in states where the age is 18 and up, people that were accused by the state of statutory rape got off due to the fact that couple had been dating for many years without any physical contact, and that the younger parties parents knew about what was going on. Basically the court reverted back to the parents decision.

  7. This movie was all style and no substance. I don't like calling movies pretentious (because usually when someone calls a movie pretentious it's a movie I like) but this movie is pretentious.

    Wasn't my cup of tea