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“The Neon Demon” is my favorite film of 2016. I have a very hard time seeing that being knocked off the top spot anytime soon. As I grow older and time becomes more of a precious commodity, my ability to revisit films dwindles. However, I’ve finally decided to cover “The Neon Demon” after my 10th time viewing said film. While Refn is losing love among the Tumblr crowd the social media justice warriors, there’s still something to be said about this film.

When the think pieces go away, when the opening weekend attention fades….people can find the truth. Refn’s “Neon Demon” succeeds in its ability to understand the female beauty aesthetic. Far removed from the collective love of body inspiring Pinterest junk, the truth remains. Beauty is a commodity that women are trained to obtain at all costs. The pursuit of said aesthetic is so entrenched in their personal survival that it takes the nature of things like food and shelter. Taking that idea to its Nth degree is what Refn does with this film.

Poor Elle Fanning is less a lead actress in the film and more of a test subject. She’s a youthful runaway to Los Angeles, who has no clue of this new environment. She’s a natural beauty, the X Factor in a world trained to break her down as non-human. Hendricks judges her at the initial audition/interview, Reeves lodges her and the other models stare her down. Everyone knows what she is and what she can be to them. All the while, Fanning holds onto a dream that will never come true. It’s like making a Dracula film told from Lucy’s POV, as she strolls through Victorian London not knowing she’s a meal-in-waiting.

Many viewers only consider this film to be horror based on its finale. Honestly, it’s a horror film for more than that. The term psychological terror gets thrown around when people want to excuse certain films from the horror genre. It’s a mistake to re-categorize terror in a way that breaks off from classic horror. After all, a young girl being prepped for the worst things in life…how is that different than Suspiria or other Euro horror tales? How is that different than Fay Wray being tied to the mount to await Kong?

Horror is about more than slashers or ghouls from beyond the grave. Horror is about being an unknowing victim in a game larger than one can perceive. The audience knows that the modeling game is far more sinister in Fanning’s world. Tossing off the best Hitchcockian conventions, the audience knows that Refn has horrible things planned for our lead. It’s just when we get there, nobody is ready to see it fulfilled.


  • 1 hr 58 mins
  • R
  • Amazon/Broad Green


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