Complete A-Z list

Neon Demon, The


Stars: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcoate, Desmond Harrington, Karl Glusman

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

“And the Putrefying Golden Coffin Award for the week’s most loathsome, most beautifully made horror movie goes to Nicolas Winding Refn for The Neon Demon”.

No such award ceremony ever happened, of course.

Pure fiction on my part although I’m pretty sure, having myself served on the judging panel of a horror film festival, that it could well have taken place had The Neon Demon been screened as part of any such event.

To be fair, you cannot accuse Refn (director of, among others, two episodes of television’s Agatha Christie’s Marple, Bronson and Drive) of directorial sloppiness here.

In creating this uniquely dislikable shocker, his direction is undoubtedly effective in drawing passable performances from his luckless cast, creating a potent growing atmosphere of unease and repulsiveness and ultimately delivering a sleazy shockfilm that makes Saw and its ilk seem blunt by comparison.

And Refn ensures that he qualifies fro auteur status by creating the original story and co-writing the screenplay with Mary Laws and Polly Stenham and, just to make sure, serving as one of the movie’s 20 producers as well.

16-year-old Elle Fanning arrives in Los Angeles aiming to become a top model and finds herself a top agent in Christina Hendricks and then is saved from the mountain lion she meets in her crummy motel room by manager Keanu Reeves. (Good enough performance, but why bother?).

Fanning apparently has everything needed to make it to the top – and so when she falls in with a group of fellow models who want what she has and are willing to do anything to get it, she is pitched into a mounting nightmare of nastiness…

Mind you, should your cinematic tastes run to lesbianism and, unforgettably, necrophilia, which is all too explicitly depicted as taking place on top of the corpse of a girl who has already undergone the indignity of a post-mortem, you will find yourself catered for.

The corpse's stitched-up incisions, though, are patently fake, much like most of the characters, while the rest of the sequence is all too credible.

Attractive cinematography (Natasha Braier) and crisp editing (Matthew Newman) adds much needed atmosphere and impact to a shocker whose concentrated blend of horror, lesbianism, shock and cardboard characters will undoubtedly help make it a cult genre movie – the genre in question being money-seeking exploitation horror trash.

Ultimately all-pervasive schlock surpasses mere shock from start to finish.

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour.
117 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 10 Jul 2016