Follow us on

Featured Blu-ray and DVD Review: The Neon Demon

October 10th, 2016

The Neon Demon - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Video on Demand

The Neon Demon

When The Neon Demon was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival, it earned a lot of praise including a standing ovation... also people booed the film, while there have been plenty of reports of people walking out of the movie. You rarely see such a divergent opinion on a film and that made me very intrigued. Will I love the film? Will I hate it? Will I be one of the few people who were indifferent?

The Movie

The movie begins with a woman, Jesse, lying on a coach covered in blood, while a a really creepy man, Dean, stares at her. This isn’t a murder scene, but a photoshoot and Jesse is a model who is new to the industry. After the shoot, Jesse meets Ruby, the make-up artist and Ruby is instantly intrigued. She can tell Jesse is new to the business, but also tells Jesse that is a plus. They talk for a bit before Ruby invites her to a party, where they meet a couple of veteran models, Gigi and Sarah. Jesse becomes the center of attention, but not in a new friend kind of way. More of a “cat found a mouse to toy with” kind of way.

Jesse’s career gets a boost when she signs with a talent agent, Roberta Hoffman, who negs her during Jesse’s interview. She also sets up a photo-session with a professional photographer, Jack McCarther. There is one issue. Since Jesse is just 16, she needs parental permission to sign a contract. However, she’s an orphan, so she has to forge the signature. That night, she goes out on a date with Dean. Despite looking creepy when he was taking her photograph, Dean actually seems like a nice guy, but Jesse isn’t ready for a relationship. When she gets back to her motel room, there’s something there. She gets the manager of the motel, Hank, who at first doesn’t believe her. Then when he sees the damage to the room demands she pays, even after seeing the cougar that actually made the mess.

Jesse has a better day when she goes to the shoot. Ruby is there doing the makeup and seeing a familiar face makes both women smile. When the photographer sees her, he demands a closed set and photographs Jesse covered only in gold paint. Afterwards, Jesse talks to Ruby again and Ruby flirts with Jesse and gives Jesse her number telling her to call if she needs anything. After that, Ruby goes to lunch with Gigi and Sarah, where she talks to them about Jesse. At first the pair don’t remember Jesse, but they become jealous when they hear she had a photo shoot with Jack.

Sarah has another run in with Jesse when both audition for a fashion designer, Robert Sarno. The designer completely ignores Sarah, but is immediately intrigued by Jesse. Afterwards, the pair have a confrontation in the bathroom and ... this is where things go off the rails.

I’m of two minds when it comes to this movie. On the one hand, I think you could make a genuinely terrifying psychological horror film just by accurately portraying what young models go through. If you watched Girl Model you’ve seen how many models fail to earn a living through modeling and are forced into prostitution to cover their expenses. If you’ve read deeper on the subject, you’ve likely heard stories of unscrupulous “modeling agencies” that are little more than fronts for sex trafficking. Just the regular sleaze of the industry is scary, so the more out there elements we see distracts from the effectiveness of the real world horror.

On the other hand, it is the out there elements that make this movie memorable. And no matter what you think about the overall quality, you will remember this movie. Unfortunately, the film takes itself way too seriously for the first nearly 90 minutes, so those that heard of this film has some wild scenes in it will be rather impatient by the time they get to it. The film tries too hard to be provocative and that lessens the impact.

That said, the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, has infused the film with a lot of style and the acting is excellent. I’m glad I got a chance to watch the movie, even if I have no interest in seeing it again.

The Extras

The extras begin with an audio commentary with Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning. There is also a 5-minute featurette on the music and a 72-second look at the movie. That’s not a lot of extras, but on par for a limited release.

The Verdict

The Neon Demon is a difficult movie to review. I think more people should see it than did so in theaters, but I also think the majority of those who do see it won’t want to see it more than once. In fact, I think a sizable chunk of the audience won’t get through the film once. Therefore, I recommend renting the film on Video on Demand, but having a backup plan in case you decide to quit the movie partway through. There will be others who love the movie immediately and will want to buy the DVD or Blu-ray.

Filed under: Video Review, Keanu Reeves, Elle Fanning, Desmond Harrington, Jena Malone, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Bella Heathcote, Nicolas Winding Refn, Karl Glusman, Abbey Lee