Nicolas Winding Refn once again proves he’s one of the most exciting contemporary directors out there with the beautiful and thoroughly bonkers The Neon Demon. It’s a tale – actually, a fairy tale – of how LA eats up pretty young things and spits them out, as Elle Fanning’s wide eyed 16 year old Jesse appears on the modelling scene and becomes the one that everyone wants. Jesse realises the power that she holds over her fellow models, the men who cast and photograph her and the catwalk, transforming from the Goldilocks/Snow White/Alice character that she is into what everyone fears.
It’s a visual and aural feast, with the spellbinding soundtrack by Cliff Martinez full of fairy tale like music. LA is seen as a mythical land, one where fortunes can be made or you’re devoured, with Jesse exploring the weird and wonderful scenery and characters like she’s just fallen down the rabbit hole.
And then we have Suspiria. NWR is definitely referencing Argento and giallo in many of the scenes and shots, and there’s a fair bit of witchcraft and symbolism on offer. Jena Malone’s Ruby, a scary make-up artist who does bad things with corpses, befriends Jesse but her motives are suspect…her occult tattoos may just give her away.
Act III is where things go truly off the wall as Jesse is lured to Ruby’s house, following an encounter with Keanu Reeves’ vile motel manager – the worst motel manager since Norman Bates. There’s some WTF moments – and a couple of scenes reinforce you may just be watching NWR’s erotic dream – and we then lead up to an especially unpleasant ending. It may put you off your supper.
NWR is great at making you revisit immediately what you’ve just watched – we did it with Only God Forgives. His films stay with you for some time after you’ve seen them and then you realise that’s he’s pretty much a genius. The Neon Demon is as disposable as the industry it portrays, but by golly it’s beautiful rubbish. And like all good fairy tales, they’re horrific.
GORE RATING: 2/5
Watch it for: It’s like nothing you’ll have seen before. Astounding
Watch out for: I’ve got to get Jesse out of me…