The Neon Demon

The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon

Seen at Cannes International Film Festival 2016

Format: Cinema

Release date: 8 July 2016

Distributor: Icon Distribution

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Mary Laws, Nicolas Winding Refn, Polly Stenham

Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendrix, Bella Heathcote

France, Denmark, USA 2016

117 mins

The Neon Demon is a hollow, surface-level satire that is pretty to look at, but little else.

The latest offering from Nicolas Winding Refn, following his brilliantly accomplished Only God Forgives, was no doubt one of the hotly anticipated films of the festival – sadly, it failed to deliver.

Set in L.A. in the ruthless world of fashion, The Neon Demon centres around young Jesse (Elle Fanning) who arrives in the big city determined to work her way up in the industry by covering herself in blood and gold for an endless string of bizarre photo shoots. And things seem to be going well: first she meets make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone), who takes her under her wing, then she lands a modelling agent (Christina Hendricks), and it doesn’t take long before she bewitches every man that crosses her path. However, being the small town ingénue she is, Jesse seems totally unaware of the competition and jealousy that is beginning to mount around her. And what starts as an overly stylised 1980s thriller slowly transforms into surreally morbid horror.

The Neon Demon appears to utilise the contrast of darkness with flashing bright neon lights to develop a somewhat mystifying atmosphere, which is maintained for the majority of the film. And it must be said, with its glitter showers, pulsing coloured lights and hazy sunsets, the film does look every bit as polished as the world it points its finger at – if only to fall victim to its own charms. If anything, Refn has created an aesthetic experience, a hollow, surface-level satire that is pretty to look at, but little else.

Pamela Jahn

This review is part of our Cannes 2016 coverage.

Watch the trailer: