HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Neon Demon
HTS Overall Score:86
Nicolas Winding Refn. That name alone is almost a descriptive agent for the film you’re going to watch. He’s about as divisive and artistic as filmmakers like Terrence Malik, Lars Von Trier or Jeff Nichols. He has made a handful of films, and each one is a testament to his craft, as he does WHAT he wants HOW he wants, no matter the film. “Only God Forgives” was one of my favorite films a few years back, but most people find his style of film making very post-modern and overly artistic. His most accessible film to date happens to have been the movie “Drive”, which was partially helped by the stellar cast (we had Bryan Cranston, Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, etc.), but also due to have a more traditional story structure than most other films he does. “Neon Demon” goes back to being highly unstructured in the overall story and uses an extreme level of disturbing and excessive imagery to tell the tale that the dialog just can’t say.
While the story is pretty basic in reality, there is a lot going on under the surface. Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a 16 year old orphan who has just moved to Los Angeles to become a model. Her new boyfriend Dean (Karl Glusman) has just shot her some headshots and test photos and she’s on her way to becoming famous. On her first shoot she meets up with a makeup designer named Ruby (Jena Malone) and two other models named Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abby Lee) who are almost instantly for the proverbial vampires that they really are. Innocent Jesse can’t see the instant hatred and coveting that the already famous models have for her beauty and youth. Jesse lives her life in a squalid motel run by a sleazy manager (Keanu Reeves in a strangely pervy roll for the actor), and tries her hardest to become the star she wanted to be.
Soon enough Elle is right up there with Sarah and Gigi and rubbing elbows with the fashion elite. Her new manager, Rudy, goads her on and soon the jealousy and coveting that the other models have towards Jesse’s innocence becomes founded in fact. Jesse soon falls in love with her own ego and starts to become the monster that the other girls are. However, the trio of jealous women have more than coveting on their mind, and they will stop at nothing to make sure that they are the queens of their domain. Even if it means become TRUE monsters to achieve that goal.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=81025[/img]“Neon Demon” is an absolutely intoxicating and scathing mix of satire and horror all in one. Refn makes it clear from the get go that Sarah, Ruby and Gigi are ravenous wolves. Creatures of the night that see something they want and are salivating at the mouth to tear it to pieces and destroy it or absorb it (the ending takes a whole new meaning to that word absorb). Every step of the way we visually see the progression of a sweet and beautiful girl turning into something that makes the audience scream at the screen as they warn her what she is doing. Every minute opens up another sleazy and disturbing secret about the world that she’s living in and it’s VERY obvious how Refn feels about the fashion industry. It’s like he’s cutting the entire film with a razor sharp night and filleting the meat from the bones until you can see the filth and rotting flesh underneath the dazzling and brilliantly colored veneer. In fact his use of color is just that. Every scene within the fashion world is brilliant and sparkling with color and saturation, but once Jesse steps out of that world and goes back to her life the colors become desaturated and a grey/teal tinge is adopted. It’s as if he’s contrasting the image that the fashion world portrays on the outside with the grimness of reality.
The film is never amazingly acted, as the girls and men seem to all be dead on the inside. However, I believe that is EXACTLY what Refn was going for. Elle Fanning is the only person with any sort of personality and depth to her (besides Dean, but he is very minimally in the film), but even that life starts to slowly fade as Jesse becomes more and more enamored with her own glory and fame like the other girls. The ending of the movie is the only part that I have a slight problem with. Refn is known for being excessive in every aspect of his films, and it plays out here with a horror infused ending that is just plain disturbing. I have no problem with the explicit nature of what was shown, but that the excessiveness was not needed to get the point across and some of it just became a fetish for the director. Still, the movie is not too marred by the vicious and explosively disturbing ending, but rather just ever so slightly weaker than it COULD have been.
Rated R for disturbing violent content, bloody images, graphic nudity, a scene of aberrant sexuality, and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=81033[/img]“Neon Demon” is an absolutely AMAZING transfer on Blu-ray. Refn paints his picture with absolutely picture perfect colors that are about as neon and brilliantly saturated as the title intimates. Colors just pop off the page and feel about as luscious as a high end video game on surreal steroids. The image ranges from overly brightened white backdrops in the limited daytime scenes, and then transfers back to silky, inky blacks that just absorb light like a black hole. There are almost NO signs of digital imperfections on the disc whatsoever (except for some very light banding that is almost imperceptable), even amongst the blackest of scenes. There is incredibly detail all around, ranging from the simple and ordinary (like Dean’s car), or the intricate and elaborate (such as Jesse’s incredible makeup and attire for her shoots). Shadow detail remains impeccable and the contrast between the neon lights and the deep DEEP blacks makes for an enticing looking picture. Simply put, this is a 100% perfect transfer from beginning to end.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=81041[/img]Just like the visuals, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is amazing, with a pulsing and hypnotic electronic score and fantastic immersion. Even though this is basically a drama, the sense of immersion is incredible as you can hear the highlife of L.A. around you and the disturbing and sensual score flowing all around the listening area. Vocals are always crisp and clear with nary a flaw in the entire movie. Surround channels are used extensively as mentioned above and the LFE is pulsing and throbbing the entire time. Whole sections of the movie are literally bathed in waves of club level bass and the score just keeps going and going and going like the energizer bunny. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t get quiet and front heavy at times, but those moments are almost an exception to the norm more than anything. Refn loves his audio as a way to set the tone and guide the film along, and “Neon Demon” is no different in that effect.
• Audio commentary with director Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning
• Behind The Soundtrack Of The Neon Demon
• About The Neon Demon
They always say that certain films are style over substance. However in the case of “Neon Demon” it is more of a case of the style IS the substance. Much of the film is told through the visuals and the satire like direction of the film makes for an extremely visceral and visual experience. The acting is almost deadpan, but that is really the point, as is laid out by Refn’s very obvious distain for the harsh and brutal show world of Los Angeles. The audio and video in the film are nothing short of stunning, and I have to say, no matter if you “get” or “don’t get” Nicolas Refn’s latest work, it is still quite a ride. With Refn I have a very hard time coming out and unabashedly recommending his films as they tend to be very divisive and more of a “LOVE it or HATE it” type of reaction. I really enjoyed it up until the ending where I Refn took it a bit too extreme for my tastes. Still, it is a great movie if you enjoy his postmodern take on film and one of the most fascinating watches I’ve had in quite some time.
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves, Bella Heathcote
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Studio: Broad Green Pictures
Runtime: 118 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 27th 2016
Buy The Neon Demon On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Incredible, yet Divisive. Highly Recommneded
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