So since this is my first post since returning to the life of blogging I need to tell you there are going to be some changes in some of my posts. Before I attempted to keep them spoiler free so that you would be compelled to go watch the movie, but there are just certain films that I just can’t possibly give you my full impression of without giving some spoilers. So I’m giving you ample time to click away and go watch The Neon Demon staring Dakota Fanning, form your own opinions, and then come back over here and hear mine.
Here we go:
Okay if you’re still around, thank you and hello!
The Neon Demon is a horror thriller from Nicolas Winding Refn who you may know from his 2013 film Only God Forgives and it focuses on 16 year old aspiring model, Jesse played by Elle Fanning, who is fresh off the bus to Los Angeles from Georgia after her parents die. Sounds cliche, I know, but I promise you the tropes end there.
The film is beautifully shot from start to finish. It opens with Jesse lying on a couch staring blankly at the camera, her throat appears to be cut. At first it’s unclear if Jesse is, in fact, dead or not. The shot pans out to reveal it’s merely a photo shoot, and we’re quickly introduced to three of our major characters: Jesse, Ruby (Jena Malone), and Dean (Karl Glusman). It is clear from the beginning that Ruby, who is a makeup artist, is sexually attracted to Jesse.
She goes to meet with a prestigious modeling agency where we get the first glimpse at the horrifying world of being a professional model. There, she meets with Christina Hendricks. Jesse is instructed to tell people she’s 19 if asked, despite the fact that she has yet to even hit 17. As she leaves the modeling agency, we see Hendrick’s character send a young girl away without even so much as meeting with her.
Here’s the deal, I am very against the modeling industry in general and this movie did absolutely nothing to change my mind.
Jesse is portrayed to have some sort of alluring quality that juts seems to radiate from her. It is unclear if there is some sort of other worldly quality or something supernatural, but what is clear is that nobody can resist her and no other model can like her because she overshadows them.
Ruby takes it upon herself to take care of her, and through her Jesse meets two other models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee). The two automatically have animosity toward her because of how quickly she is progressing in the modelling field, and how old the two of the are considered for models.
There is a lot that happens between the meeting of the two other girls and the climax. Including Jesse listening to the owner of the motel where she’s staying, played by Keanu Reeves, brutally rape the 14 year old run away living in the room next door and not calling the cops, to Ruby essentially attempting to rape Jesse herself, to Ruby having sex with a corpse at the morgue were she works while thinking of Jesse.
Now let me tell you, this is one of the first movies I’ve watched in a long time that at the end I sat in silence for quite awhile and just thought: “What the f@#& did I just watch?!”, but when I was researching afterwards and realized that this movie was in part inspired by Elizabeth Bathory. If you aren’t familiar with this particular piece of history here’s a really quick, terribly simple rundown: Elizabeth Bathory was a countess in 14th century Hungary who decided that in order to stay young she needed to bath in the blood of young girls. Gruesome, I know. Bathory has been an inspiration for a lot of stories throughout horror history, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula himself.
The Neon Demon is a heavy handed, disturbing, graphic cautionary tale about the dangers of our cultures obsession with youth and beauty. Jesse suffers a horrific fate at the hands of women who are, probably, only ten years her senior who are so jealous they are driven to murder, and the ultimate crime of cannibalism (if you weren’t convinced of how f***** up this movie was before, I’m sure you are now).
Overall, The Neon Demon is worth a watch if you can handle gore and utter hopelessness. I haven’t been able to stomach a second viewing, though it’s one that might leave you needing a second to fully form an opinion for yourself.