The Neon Demon - This Kinda Horror Movie Kinda Rocks. Fashionably
Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves
It’s fair to say that Nicolas Winding Refn ploughs a singular furrow. That tone seemed to capture an awful lot of public imagination with Drive, almost as quickly as it alienated said audience with Only God Forgives.
So where does his latest, an erstwhile fashion-horror movie fall? Very literally between two stools. Neon Demon is a mixture of Refn’s version of social commentary (it’s far too languid to call it social satire) and a vague sort of attempt at contemporary giallo horror.
It has a mesmeric style that has become the man’s trademark, that initially works quite well as we see the very watchable Fanning’s descent into the Dante-esque world of the LA fashion scene. It starts as a cautionary tale, but Refn himself doesn’t ever really want to “warn” anybody about the fairly basic morality of his argument here. He wants to embrace the sordidness. And give the man his due, he certainly knows how to do that – even if he sometimes seems to take a dream-like age to do so.
Fanning – as he clearly knows and as we’ve all known since Super 8 – is very definitely a star. But he has an annoying habit of trying to subsume her to his overwhelming whim and style here. Yet his film works well for the most part, replete with unexpected and very unpleasant hallucinatory violence. Oh, and corpse shagging – always a pleasure, never a chore! (In the right hands.)
Unfortunately, it clearly starts to lose itself in the second half, and Refn's fashion-is-cannibalism metaphor is a tad too heavy handed at times. That said, towards the end, when the film fully embraces its giallo roots, it really becomes something again. Even if it is a mixed something.
(Plus, it’s great to see Keanu finally being acknowledged for the great actor he can be. And no – we’re not being sarcastic, check out the man’s body of work in the last two years – John Wick, Knock, Knock and this. Now that’s a run.)
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