Review by Lauryn Angel
The Neon Demon is a slick, visually-stunning horror film from Nicholas Winding Refn that channels both David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Sure to be divisive, the film is mesmerizingly beautiful while simultaneously exploring the depths of human depravity.
Jesse (Dakota Fanning) is an aspiring model in Los Angeles, fresh off the bus and virtually friendless. Make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) quickly takes her under her wing, introducing her to fellow models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee). Ruby’s assertion that Jesse’s “deer in the headlights thing” is in demand turns out to be true, as Jesse quickly lands a booking with a prestigious agency and her career quickly takes off. Unfortunately, Jesse learns just as quickly about professional jealousy and the dangers of being beautiful in an industry where “beauty isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
While the movie is billed as a horror film, the horror is restrained to the psychological for the first two acts of the film. There is little in the way of plot; the film is more an exercise in style, centered on the theme of predator and prey. Jesse is clearly the prey, surrounded by multiple predators – the creepiest of which is probably Keanu Reeves as the manager of the motel where Jesse is staying. It seems inevitable that Jesse will become a victim, but throughout the film, Jesse shows signs of her own predatory nature. The third act is where the film truly earns the “horror” label, with plot twists that are as confusing as they are shocking.
The Neon Demon has a fantastic score, superb performances, and mesmerizing cinematography, which makes it easy to forgive the thin plot. It’s a movie I’ll be thinking about for quite some time.
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