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157 out of 223 people found the following review useful:

Visually stunning, but without substance

Author: Ruben Mooijman from Ghent, Belgium
18 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In a way, this film is a perfect example of form following function. What better way to show how empty and perverse the model scene in Los Angeles is, than to make an empty and perverse movie about it? If Nicolas Winding Refn wanted to make this point, he has made it loud and clear.

But the question is: did he really want to make this point? Or did he just want to take his cinematographic capabilities one step further, by taking the visual aesthetics to the limit, without bothering about the rest? 'The Neon Demon' is visually stunning, but lacks substance. The story about a 16 year old model being literally devoured by the fashion industry, is nothing more than a vehicle for the visual exuberance of the film. It is like a 'Vogue' magazine: there are many pages, but they are all filled with glamorous pictures, and very little text. You can browse through it, but it doesn't have a message, other than an endless display of beauty.

To accentuate the perversion of it all, Winding Refn had added some horror elements, which almost seem ridiculous, especially at the end of the film. There's also an irritating and very prominent soundtrack. The acting is mostly unnatural and pretentious. But if you like browsing the latest edition of Vogue magazine, perhaps this is the film for you.

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110 out of 159 people found the following review useful:

Utter drivel and, what's worse, boring drivel.

Author: Neil Welch from United Kingdom
5 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film starts promisingly with an eye-catching and unsettling image: then the first dialogue (or should I say "direlogue"?) scene starts, and two things happen. One, the dialogue is awful. Two, the instruction in Acting 101 "Make the most of your pauses" has been translated here into "Leave 5 seconds silence before replying to anything which has been said." The self-consciously clever-dick direction, at its worst, leads to an interminable sequence which is supposed to represent a catwalk show in which nothing happens (and it doesn't happen repetitively, too) for what seems to be half a day. Refn thinks he is being clever in his direction: he isn't.

The first 80% of the story is trite and obvious: the final sequence is ludicrous. Refn again. Perhaps it's supposed to be a metaphor or some sort of metaphysical commentary. It's still ludicrous.

Lesbian necrophilia and cannibalism? I was too busy being bemused (when I wasn't being bored) to be outraged.

If I had been even slightly engaged, I would have been left with a bagful of unanswered questions afterwards. As it was, I didn't care enough to be bothered, although I will chuck one out, just for fun - what was the point of the mountain lion in the motel room? What did that add to the narrative? As expected, the Refn Fan Club is full of the usual "If You Didn't Understand This Parable Of Modern Existentialism It's Because You're Too Thick" nonsense, to which I reply Emperor's New Clothes.

If you don't see just one film this year, please make it this one.

It's a stinker. And a boring, tedious stinker at that.

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117 out of 194 people found the following review useful:

Dangerous beauty

Author: Giancarlo Cairella from United States
24 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I wouldn't really recommend The Neon Demon unconditionally to my friends; not because it's a bad film (quite the opposite) but because it's the kind of movie that would inevitably lead some of them to think "he told me to watch it and said it was great. What kind of freak could possibly like that kind of stuff?"

To call it "not for all tastes" is the understatement of the year, since the majority of audiences probably won't really appreciate its very droll mix of violence, cannibalism, dark comedy, necrophilia and fetishism. In fact, I will be very surprised if there isn't any condemnation or manifestation of outrage from groups or individuals arguing that it's yet another shallow male-directed film that objectifies, stereotypes and vilifies women. I'd also be willing to bet that Nicolas Winding Refn, who, like his fellow countryman Lars Von Trier, has a reputation for being a provocateur par excellence, had exactly this type of reaction in mind when he made it. There is a semi-gratuitous maybe-it's-a-dream sequence where a female character is forced to fellate a knife blade that seems designed precisely to elicit that sort of response.

Deliberate excesses aside, The Neon Demon is possibly Nicolas Winding Refn's most straightforward narrative in a while (certainly more linear than Only God Forgives or Bronson). The film follows Jesse (Elle Fanning), a 16-year-old ingenue who moves to L.A. (or, to be exact, to a seedy motel in Pasadena, run by a sleazy and sinister manager played by a cast-against-type Keanu Reeves) hoping to become a model. Her naïveté and awkwardness notwithstanding, she first catches the eye of a powerful model agency head (Christina Hendrickson), then an influential photographer (Desmond Harrington) and finally a big fashion designer (Alessandro Nivola) who casts her as the centerpiece of his new show, much to the chagrin of established models Sarah (Abby Lee) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote), who don't take kindly to being laid by the wayside to make room for a fresh new face.

She is also befriended by Ruby (Jena Malone), a seemingly well- meaning fashion make-up artist who moonlights at the local mortuary by applying her skills to make cadavers more presentable, and by an impossibly nice young man named Dean (Karl Glusman) who would like to be Jesse's boyfriend and protector. This being a horror film, at least on the surface, things starts to get weird for Jesse when her new friend and rivals decide to do something about her rapid ascent to the rank of top model. To say more would stray into spoiler territory, so I'll stop here.

Like Quentin Tarantino, Nicolas Winding Refn is a master regurgitator of old genre films. "Drive" was the bastard son of Michael Mann's "Thief" and Walter Hill's "Driver", with a few other ingredients tossed in for good measure (the film also owed a huge debt to Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samourai"). "The Neon Demon" is his love song to Dario Argento (in particular "Suspiria", which is visually and thematically referenced multiple times) and to countless Euro-thrillers from the seventies, starting with the fantastic but little-seen (in the USA) Belgian lesbian vampire/Countess Bathory retelling "Daughters of Darkness".

Punctuated by a great electronic score by Cliff Martinez (which sounds like the best soundtrack that Goblin never wrote in the last 20 years), The Neon Demon is a visual feast that makes the neon- drenched "Drive" and "Only God Forgives" look almost drab by comparison. This is a gorgeous-looking film, set in beautiful locations, with a cast to match.

The women are all impossibly beautiful and incredibly shallow and repellent at the same time: they look and move like poisonous snakes whose skin you would really like to reach out and caress, knowing full well that you are likely to receive a painful bite. Male characters on the other hand are almost uniformly visually unpleasant and slimy or feral-looking (Desmond Harrington's photographer in particular looks gaunt and menacing like a wolf circling a wounded animal). Only Dean, the prospective boyfriend, seems like a good, decent human being, but this is a movie that seems hell-bent on confirming the old adage that "nice guys finish last".

Elle Fanning is good, especially at the beginning of the film where she is required to look shy and insecure -- in fact there are no weaklings in the whole cast. But the film belongs to Jena Malone, whose character undergoes the most startling transformation as the story progresses. Her performance is truly daring and committed and easily the most memorable in a film filled with weird and eye- catching characters. When you see the film, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Although The Neon Demon is ostensibly a horror film, underneath all the scary movie trappings lies a very black (and bleak) comedy about a superficial world where appearances are everything and the only way to survive is to embrace (quite literally) a dog-eat-dog attitude. It's most definitely not a movie for everyone (and the only film in recent memory where a scene involving an act of lesbian necrophilia doesn't feel gratuitous and out of place), but it's the product of a talented director who has completed a metamorphosis, which began with Bronson (2009), from "simple" genre filmmaker into full- blown auteur, with a personal and distinctive visual and narrative style. If you are at all interested in cinema beyond regular multiplex fare, it's definitely worth investing 2 hours of your time.

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107 out of 185 people found the following review useful:

The worst movie I have ever seen, by far - SPOILER ALERT (for a film that is already spoiled)

Author: theneonsemen
26 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I loved the movie Drive. This is not Drive. Here's why:

1. This movie is visually very weak. Don't get me wrong, I understand this aesthetic. But that is because it is totally played out. I heard NWR say that he got the idea for Only God Forgives from the mental image of a clenched fist. I would say for this one he got the idea from old Maybelline commercials, the 2006 Daft Punk alive tour and some old Mert & Marcus editorials. It looks cheap, dated and badly executed. The soundtrack is the same. It worked for Drive because that electro revival of Moroder in 2001 is the perfect driving music, but now it just feels tacky. Save your money and just walk into any Sephora store.

2. This movie is not "crazy" or "dark". Every "surreal" moment is predictable and cliché. Watch Un Chien Andalou and then got to Burning Man festival and you'll have all the inspiration you will need for a sequel. Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day makes use of the same clichés but the difference is that NWR thinks he is the first one to think of them.

3. This movie is not a "critique". This doesn't reveal the truth of anything except a made- up idea of the fashion world. Who told NWR that modeling make-up always involves putting a bunch of junk on the girls faces? Who told him that the center of the modeling world is LA and not New York? That Elle Fanning, who is short and pudgy, is somehow meant to be believable as a more desirable model than Abbey Lee Kershaw? If she is so good why does the camera cut away every time she is meant to strike a pose or walk a catwalk? Abbey Lee says at one point that by the time you are 20 your past your expiry date. She is 29 and had a major Calvin Klein campaign earlier this year.

4. The story sucks (because NWR "wrote" it, unlike Drive). The story is basically Black Swan. Think pseudo-lesbian jealousy corrupting a young hopeful in a competitive industry. But then add a few dozen plot holes. This girl is the modeling worlds' new It Girl and yet she can't afford a motel that isn't rape-infested? Or ever go to a hospital? You can successfully bury a girl in a six inch grave in a perfectly manicured garden in a house that isn't yours? And why are there only about 6 people in the whole movie? Parties, nightclub toilets, restaurants photo shoots and the backstage of runway shows usually have dozens of people around, not three. Especially not the same three every time.

The acting is pretty lousy but who cares at this point. I'm sure most fans will think that dislike for this film comes from its dark, confronting, disturbing portrayal of our superficial society. It doesn't. It comes from wanting to watch something other than an old loser jerk himself off for 2 hours to a 2001 copy of Vogue magazine.

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75 out of 130 people found the following review useful:

Don't watch this movie.

Author: Shae Spencer from United States
9 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have enjoyed most of the Nicolas Winding Refn films I've seen. I love both Bronson and Drive. I tried to like Only God Forgives, but couldn't. I came into The Neon Demon with neutral expectations. I walked out of the end credits disgusted with myself for not having left sooner.

The Neon Demon is vapid, soulless trash. It is despicable drivel. It is irresponsible. It is made without a sense of accountability to taste or reason. It is a bafflingly inept attempt at surrealism, where caricatures are passed off as characters, and bright, pretty lights and colors as compelling imagery. The potentially interesting (if trite) theme of the moral and emotional emptiness of the modeling industry is presented in a laughably inane way, as if it were a fresh, vital artistic insight.

If Only God Forgives was nudging audience members in the ribs a bit too hard, The Neon Demon kicks us in the groin. Repeatedly.

This is true both in the film's style and content. I'm a firm believer that any subject can be dealt with in a film. There is a line of decency and human concern that is usually difficult to discern, and is obviously highly subjective. Shocking scenes will often polarize viewers, and, usually, there are legitimate points to be made on either side. Neon demon goes miles over that line. There is no defense for a scene where over the course of what I would estimate to be a couple minutes of screen time, a woman molests a female corpse. The audience sees and hears almost everything. I won't go into further detail. Unfortunately, Refn did. If this weren't bad enough, this footage is intercut with an abstract representation of the woman's fantasy about an underage girl who earlier rejected the woman's advances. The girl is 16 in the film, and Elle Fanning was either 16 or 17 at the time of filming.

I don't consider myself a prude when it comes to dark topics in film. As I said, I firmly believe there are tasteful (or at least acceptable) ways to handle any issue through the medium of film. An example of a film which is uncompromising in depicting evil and yet doesn't cross the line is The Silence of the Lambs. However awful the acts of Hannibal or Buffalo Bill are in that movie, the film is made from a place of heart, of empathy for the victims, a place of humaneness. It doesn't revel in the crimes of its villains. We are meant to be sickened by them. When Hannibal clobbers a policeman (nearly?) to death, the director is very selective in what we see, focusing in on Lecter's demonic glee. It's a thrilling, gut wrenching scene. In Neon Demon's necrophilia scene, everything is fair game. A large part of the reason this scene is so reprehensible to me is that it seems almost as if it's meant to be titillating.

I wonder: How would this film have been received if the necrophile were a man molesting a female corpse?

It's disheartening to me that a small minority of people seeing this film actually like it. I can't help but think (and hope?) that they're simply fooling themselves, that their affection for Refn's previous, far superior films is being unduly extended over this one. As with Only God Forgives, perhaps the cinematography is distracting enough for them to forgive its fundamental storytelling flaws.

But even though I found The Neon Demon intermittently nice to look at, and in spite of my adoration for the genius of Drive and Bronson, I hate this film. Even if I was to pretend there was no sickeningly indulgent necrophilia scene, or other lingering, exploitative shots which directly contradict the premise that the film is an indictment of the male gaze, I would still hate this film, simply because it is so bad.

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123 out of 227 people found the following review useful:

A neon lit parable of big city poison.

Author: paddybass from Ireland
25 May 2016

Nicolas Winding-Refn is a director who defies all analysis. Most considered him a surefire "Commercial Success" following on from his exceptional adaptation, Drive back in 2011. However, against all odds Winding-Refn went darker, more subversive and all together more polarising with his 2013 release Only God Forgives.

The Neon Demon is sure to be equally divisive. I was lucky enough to attend the red carpet premiere of the film in Cannes and was personally blown away by it's unique style & vision. It's long slider shots demand attention and draw attention to every minute detail on offer. It's use of mirrors encourages the viewer to look beyond the "real" world and examine what lies on the other side.

Obviously, it goes without saying that this film looks amazing. If nothing else, most of Winding-Refn's supporters or critiques will admit that his films aesthetics are always incredible. However, despite the muted dialogues and slow pacing, the film gripped me for its full 110 minute run time. This was because, although the movie is a "horror", it's so much more. It's an examination of the human obsession with beauty.

Elle Fanning does a remarkable turn as Jesse - a young runaway, trying to make it big in Los Angeles. Her beauty is so powerful that things begin to work to her favour almost immediately on her arrival. More over than that, her beauty seems to encapsulate and draw in those around her, while repelling her peers who scathe her. Her natural beauty is something that all the plastic surgery in LA can't generate.

Jena Malone steals the film as Ruby - a make up artist who befriends Jesse as soon as she arrives in the town. She also introduces Jesse to the vacuous and vindictive pair of models played by Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee. If you haven't guessed already this is a film with a real focus on females. Although there are a handful of male characters (Dexters Desmon Harrington does an incredible turn as a high power fashion photographer), the focus here is all feminine. Even down to the decision to bring in a female DOP to shoot the film.

There are too many twists and turns to get into here, but all I can say is that this could be Winding-Refn's most powerful movie to date. It's an analysis on the human condition and our obsession with natural beauty. It claws and scratches at our preconceptions and breaks us down, revealing the gooey centre; what makes us tick. Stellar performances, amazing visuals, a banging score and a unique storyline will cement this as a cult classic - of this I am sure.

I cannot wait for the theatrical release if only to have more time to soak in the films dreamy visuals, take in more of the films subtexts and once again be blown away by the force of nature that is NWR.

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93 out of 175 people found the following review useful:

Self-Serious Mess Filled With Bad Laughs

Author: jrobertfleming from United States
28 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So I guess female vanity is some kind of dark magic and you see the innocent virgin attracted to its glowing allure. As she is drawn into it she meets a coven of witches: a passover, a wannabe and a sorceress supreme, who all covet what she has. The passover wants to kill her, the wannabe is jealous of her and the sorceress supreme who occasionally turns into a wildcat attempts to seduce her, but, awake to the power within her, the innocent virgin instead opens herself to her destiny as the vessel of 'The Neon Demon'. The coven then kills her and eats her flesh to gain for themselves the powers of 'The Neon Demon'. Which is female vanity or the male gaze or some nebulous cloud of similar tropes referenced in terms of fashion modelling.

The bad laughs and eye-rolling material comes on early where our innocent virgin hits all those on-the-nose beats about falling from innocence in the big city. Speaking of 'beats', long expanses of the film seem like the cinematography was only there to provide a light show behind Carpenter-esque synth jamming. An example of this was a heavily abstracted scene where our innocent virgin is finally possessed by 'The Neon Demon'. I guess 'abstract' is the word for it. 'Stoner planetarium laser show' would also suffice. Within the narrative continuity, this possession is meant to have occurred when the innocent virgin is given the star slot in a famous designer's runway show. One is left with the suspicion that the filmmakers couldn't actually show this happen in the context of an actual runway show because they didn't have a clear idea of the reality of a runway show. The scenes bookending the sequence feature some of the most self-serious and unintentionally silly dialogue in the film.

After her possession, the film takes a steep dive into very silly territory. Our innocent virgin is presumably transformed now that she has accepted 'Teh Power', but Elle Fanning has none of the startling aesthetic presence attributed to her character either before or after. We're just meant to recognize her unique and startling attractiveness because it's written into the dialogue. By the foot of the second act, audience credulity on this point is strained.

There's a scene of the sorceress making out with a corpse, a ten minute sequence of the witches washing the innocent virgin's blood off their bodies in slo-mo under blue light while the sorceress, also covered in blood and glitter, gazes on and one of the witches heaves for ten minutes, in another ten-minute sequence of a character doing one thing, before throwing up an eyeball. There's more goofy stuff after that. There are a lot of party-bulb and blacklight shots which go on for way to long. A lot of bad dialogue. It's not a good movie.

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66 out of 122 people found the following review useful:

Refn is possessed by a demon that feasts on all that is trite and shiny

Author: redhotchilipieper from United States
24 June 2016

As a viewer who has enjoyed a handful of Nicolas Winding Refn's works like Drive, Bronson, Valhalla Rising, and even Only God Forgives – which I defended wholeheartedly in a 2013 Amazon review – it pains me a little to kick off my review with the following statement: It is difficult to decide what I dislike most about Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon. Critics giving Demon positive reviews and arguing that its monomaniacal focus on style is intentionally on par with the film's message are missing the reality that NWR's creative juices are simply dried up at the moment.

So what is the least admirable trait of Refn's latest? Is it the paucity original thought? The onslaught of the routinely neon- drenched Kubrickian imagery? The fact that a good sixth of the movie feels like the director got away with making fetish porn with an Amazon Studios (and about a half dozen other production companies) budget? I'm not even going to start in on the film's literal blood baths, but I think that the lack of originality is probably the worst part.

Audiences have already seen everything that The Neon Demon has to offer. Cinematically speaking, there is nothing more than the usual slew of rehashed Kubrick frames (including a groan-worthy Shining shout out within the first few minutes). Aside from a memorable strobe- light inspired scene of a performance at a model- populated L.A. party, Refn adds nothing new to his aesthetic arsenal that he has not already splashed on the screen with his previous four films.

From a narrative standpoint, one should not expect a fully-formed, fleshed out story or characters. These are not Refn's preoccupations when making a movie, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. That is, if the film's style and themes can compensate. Stylistically (see paragraph above), it does not hold any substantial weight. Unfortunately, there is even more of a thematic drought.

At one point in the film, the increasingly narcissistic protagonist Jesse (Elle Fanning) says that other girls will cut, carve, inject, and do anything else to their own bodies just so that they can look like a second- rate version of her. The girl from the small town who seemed so nice starts becoming a bit conceited by her time in the fashion industry. Can you believe it? Imagine that! Wow, what is the director trying to say about fashion? Hollywood? The male gaze? SOCIETY?

If there is one thing that 2106 films like The Neon Demon and Zoolander 2 should be teaching would-be blockbuster directors and art-house auteurs alike, it is that the fashion industry has become one of the stalest targets for satire in any artistic medium or genre. It's not that superficiality doesn't deserve it, but at this point if a writer or a director has nothing original to say about it, then they should not be saying anything all.

To be fair, the trite and shiny cloud of unoriginality that is The Neon Demon does have its silver linings. I have never felt so badly for a film score than I do for Cliff Martinez's excellent work on this soundtrack. While the message of the movie will blend in with the mental smoothie of other Hollywood/superficiality parable flicks, I will not easily be able to excise Martinez's thumping synths from my ears. I will also never forget the intensity of Abbey Lee's stares.

There are also less silvery scenes involving Jena Malone taking the tired psycho lesbian trope to whole new level and an absurdly Nicolas Cage-esque Keanu Reeves as an acrimonious motel manager that I will not forget for other reasons (primarily the random shock-less "shock value" senselessness of them). I wish I could recommend The Neon Demon as a startlingly original work from a gifted auteur, but it feels like Refn simply isn't challenging himself or the audience in any meaningful way. Here's hoping that this kind of trite and shiny would-be shock fest will not be the only thing that Refn has to offer cinema in the future.

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96 out of 184 people found the following review useful:

Another Overrated and Boring Film by Nicolas Winding Refn

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The sixteen year-old aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) arrives in Los Angeles expecting to be a successful model. The aspirant photographer Dean (Karl Glusman) takes photos for her portfolio and dates her. Jesse befriends the lesbian makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and then the envious models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee) in a party. Meanwhile the agency considers Jesse beautiful with a "thing" that makes her different and she is sent to the professional photographer Jack (Desmond Harrington). Jesse attracts the attention of the industry and has a successful beginning of career. But Ruby, Gigi and Sarah are capable to do anything to get her "thing".

"The Neon Demon" is another overrated and boring film by Nicolas Winding Refn. This filmmaker is specialist in making shallow films with beautiful cinematography. The long and annoying "The Neon Demon" is no exception. The storyline is "naive aspiring model goes to LA and is devoured by the system" is disclosed along 1h 58 minutes running time. Elle Fanning is not a beautiful teenager to justify the hype from the industry; therefore her character has "a thing" to explain her success for simple mortals like most of the viewers. The most impressive are the positive reviews and the conclusion might be the following: Nicolas Winding Refn is a darling of the cinema industry; or Nicolas Winding Refn has a strong team of people to write positive and overrated reviews of his films in IMDb. The fake horror genre misleads the viewers and fans of the genre. My vote is three.

Title (Brazil): "Demônio de Neon" ("Neon Demon")

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33 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Started off OK then became very disturbing

Author: lissas-91907 from United States
25 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I do not mind a dark movie if it has a real plot and substance. This movie started off interesting, although there were some scenes with major flaws. However, it then turned into an extremely strange and disturbing film. It was as though the writer(s) hit writer's block and just decided to write sick scenes and put them altogether for merely shock value to keep the audience's attention until the end. The only thing good were some visuals.... Except for the disturbing scenes. The acting was okay. The reactions the actors had to certain occurrences were so unrealistic. It was laughable. I am so sad I spent money to see this movie. I wouldn't have even watched if it was for free.

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