Finally got to see The Neon Demon, which is the latest film from Writer and Director Nicholas Refn whose previous films include Valhalla Rising, Drive and Only God Forgives. Ella Fanning is a runaway 16 year old virgin whose innocence is exemplified by her natural beauty. She evokes striking responses from Fashion Designers, Agents, Photographers and other models whose emptiness inside is often personified by their feelings of desperation and the need to self aggrandize for attention. What comes natural to Fanning's character appears to take a lot of effort from the more experienced models. Jena Malone is a standout as Fanning's makeup artist with an agenda all her own.
Visually, The Neon Demon is one of the best genre films I have seen all year. Refn's status as an Auteur is perhaps now more than ever before firmly established with a tale that can be looked upon in various ways. It is a horror film and yet it is kind of a dark fairy tale. The type of Grimm like story that is as much a cautionary yarn as it is a fetishistic exploration into a dark world that exists concurrently with our own, but most cannot or choose to ignore what they see. There are a ton of subliminal imagery and allusions as well as implications that suggest disturbing criminal trends that include pedophilia, Gnostic ritualistism, child trafficking, blood sacrifice, necrophilia and lots of occult imagery.
Dark reflections and black mirror imaging appears constantly with "as above so below" dual images that create inverted patterns and are impacted and contrasted through the deliberate use of rich blue and crimson red lights to create yin and yang visual subtext punctuated by dialogue that takes on dual meaning, especially in hindsight. Along with The Witch, I think The Neon Demon is one of the best arthouse horror films of the year. The cinematography is gorgeous and the screen direction is both atmospheric and yet it is still focused upon character dichotomies and duality that reflect against the mix of opulent and seedy settings, which serve to further unify themes and allegories woven throughout the motion picture and serves to further unify the tapestry as a whole where nothing is quite like it seems, dark agendas are hidden behind smiles, people are dehumanized and the decadent machine that consumes indiscriminately between the notions of good and evil because it assimilates all things without empathy or compassion. Thus some might argue that the concepts of right and wrong do not apply in the world of the film and in fact to look at the film using those labels makes the viewer just a dualistic as the characters in the film too.
Ultimately, viewers will get out of The Neon Demon what they project on to it, but I think the best way to approach the film is to try and reserve judgment until one has seen it in it's entirety and has had time to digest it. The Neon Demon will soon be available on demand as a digital copy purchase or rental with a Blu-ray Disc release to follow later in September.
(C) Copyright 2016 By Mark A. Rivera.
All Rights Reserved.