Movie Review: The Neon Demon

I recently watched the Neon Demon. The theater was empty.

I wasn't sure what to expect of the film. It has a cool name and poster. I heard someone mumble that it was probably the Black Swan about the modeling industry. Also, my dude is a Refn fan and we had nothing else to do that night. So there's that.

The review below will contain my thoughts about the film, which will more than likely contain spoilers. If you're not into that, I thank you for reading this far and invite you to leave the site and enjoy your day. You've been warned.

The movie opens up with this shot. I was immediately impressed with the blood and gore, and the colors and composition were stunning. It turned out that this was simply a photoshoot, but also a foretelling of the events to come.

Jesse, played by Elle Fanning, is a 16 year-old orphan who made her way to Los Angeles to become a model. She's got a look that draws a lot of people in. She looks sweet, innocent, but there's something underneath it all that makes people wonder. She wins over the love of photographers and designers, and inspires the jealousy of her peers. Basically, bitch is going to have to watch out, right? Jealous women can do some awful things, and knowing this was a thriller, I was anticipating things like bleach in the shampoo bottle, slicing up designer gowns that are about to be modeled in, putting acid in the toner water, etc. But this movie drags out the tension and delivers in a very unexpected and refreshing way.

Thrillers about Hollywood are kind of played out. Maybe I'm just jaded, but I've seen almost every trope and the most common one is that Hollywood is full of vampires. Industry people latching on to the livelihood/creativity of fresh blood and bleeding them dry to self destruction. There's a scene after Jesse and Sarah audition for a runway show, and Sarah, upset that she didn't get the job, smashes a mirror in the ladies room. Jesse goes to talk to her, gets scared, cuts her hand on broken glass, and Sarah latches onto Jesse's hand sucks her blood. I groaned because the vampire reference was too obvious, too literal. But I kept watching.

About halfway through the movie, Jesse realizes her power. The innocent cover slowly peels away. She is climbing right up to the top and "everyone else is just trying to be a second-rate version" of her. And because she's 16, she thinks she's invincible.

BUT, she's staying in a motel where the manager seems to be aware of renting to underage girls and treats its like fucked-up prime brothel/murder grounds.

AND, she dumps the one the guy that genuinely cares about her and doesn't really seek out the friendship of anyone except for Ruby who is not the person she thought she was.

AND, at some point, she becomes too conceited to recognize the danger she's in. And her arrogance becomes her downfall.

The later third of the movie gets gruesome, in a total mind-fuck kind of way.

Ruby tries to rape Jesse and later gets cozy with a corpse (I may have gagged a few times watching this scene). There's a blood bath (literally. Bathtub filled with blood). There's cannibalism. All while the film maintains bright and vibrant colors and features beautiful people who earn a living off of being beautiful.

This film felt like David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky got together to make a movie based off of Beyoncé's Lemonade video where she says, "I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. . . We can pose for a photograph . . . " Beautiful, sick, and super twisted. This is another "Hollywood is full of vampires" movie, but it's not as groan-worthy.

I'd watch it again.


Tiffany Scandal is the author of There's No Happy Ending and Jigsaw Youth. She is also the managing editor at King Shot Press. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

 

 

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