Entertainment, Review

The Neon Demon: Stunning, beautiful and sick

0 593

By Jack Holmes

The fashion world has never looked so sickly beautiful before. Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn has returned to the peak of film making that he’d achieved with 2011’s cult hit Drive and The Neon Demon is a return to form for the director who many fans were beginning to feel had lost his way after 2013’s Only God Forgives offered Refn’s surface level stun, yet very little else.

The Neon Demon largely addresses these flaws and gives us a narrative that’s by no means a plot destined to become a cinema classic, but that is capable of holding an audience while Refn’s real skill as a cinematographer really draws in the viewer.


The almost fable-like tale follows sixteen year old Jesse (Elle Fanning) who moves to LA to pursue a modelling career. Signed immediately to a major label, the veteran models of the industry sense their “sell by date” looming, as one describes it, and are eventually pushed to commit a serious of gore-splashed crimes of the mind and body. They’re actions that are best seen to be enjoyed for what they are, as Refn pushes the shock factor to eleven, ramping up from a particular scene in an agency bathroom, right through to the almost sickening final scene of the movie. It feels like watching a modern Brothers Grimm fairy-tale, complete with witches, wolves, oblivious sheep and some shockingly graphic content. If you’re squeamish when it comes to movies, this might not be the one for you.

However, if glossy, seemingly scientifically calculated shot after shot is your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Hit pause at just about any point in The Neon Demon and you’ll have a postcard-worthy image. Outdoor scenes are given a peaceful tranquility though beige colour palettes, but it’s when the darkness sets in that Refn really sets himself apart from any other directors out there. The neon sign signifiers that became synonymous with Drive return here but Refn proves that he’s using more than a single gimmick to mould a film’s lighting to his6503 purpose. One particular catwalk scene is so expertly lit he manages to light Elle Fanning’s face to slightly resemble a skull with no computer effects to be seen. Lighting might not sound like a real draw for a film, but you haven’t seen lighting like this in a film for a long time.The film establishes itself as a re-watchable classic through these cinematic techniques that will leave you wanting to lick the screen before reeling as Refn’s lust for gore takes hold.

Scenes, dialogue, characters and costume are also laced with so much metaphor you’ll find yourself picking it apart hours after the credits have rolled. A nice example of the development Refn demonstrates, adding new layers to his usual surface-focused formula.

As always, Cliff Martinez does an amazing job composing the “sparse electronic score” as he describes it. Having worked with Refn on the soundtrack for Drive previously and creating what is considered a near perfect soundtrack that was even covered by other artists on a Radio One special, The Neon Demon seems set to accomplish a similar feat.

At its heart, The Neon Demon is a story of lost innocence, jealousy and the consumption of youth, but, where the plot occasionally fails to captivate the audience, you can rely on the slick visuals to keep you rooted to your seat.

Have you seen The Neon Demon yet? Did you feel like the plot held up to the stunning cinematography? Let us know at @Holmesblogs and @HumanityHallows

About the author / 

Jack Holmes

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Dido & Aeneas and Orfeo ed Euridice @ Hope Mill Theatre review – an impressive double bill

    Featured image: City of Manchester Opera City of Manchester Opera presented their first double bill since 2019, featuring Dido and Aeneas and Orfeo ed Euridice at Hope Mill Theatre. Both performances were conducted by Musical Director Juan Oruño and directed by Artistic Director Nigel Machin. The Manchester-based company, comprised of professional, semi-professional and trained amateur…

  • Shirley Craven @ The Whitworth Art Gallery review – A celebration of colour and pattern

    Featured image: Elizabeth Clark After stepping into the stark white gallery space of The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, viewers venture blindly into the dimly lit exhibition rooms where Shirley Craven’s magnificent designs hang. Here, housed in the industrial red brick, the vibrant textile designs seem to leap off the walls, dancing and singing around…

  • Manchester Indian Film Festival: Creating TV Drama Series collaboration brings together the city’s creatives

    Featured image: Juan Pablo Cifuentes The ‘Creating TV Drama Series’ networking event brought together writers and industry professionals as part of the Manchester Indian Film Festival’s collaboration with Manchester Met. Hosted by the Manchester Writing School, it brought together staff and students from the School of Digital Arts (SODA) and Manchester School of Theatre (MST)…

  • What you need to know about the upcoming election

    Featured image: Elliott Stallion on Unsplash A rain-soaked Rishi Sunak took the news by storm on 22nd May, calling a general election on 4th July, 2024.  Although most of us know what a general action is, a quick synopsis is always useful. The general election is an opportunity to elect Members of Parliament to the House of…