Blu-ray/DVD Review: THE NEON DEMON (2016)

The first time I saw THE NEON DEMON was at the very impressive ArcLight Cinema in Los Angeles a few months back.  I essentially had the theater to myself (I saw it very early in the day), which enhanced my overall movie-going experience.  It was darkly hypnotizing right out of the gate. The opening credits pull you in like a magnet, inhaling your focus with its deep soundtrack and blazing colors, which steadily continues throughout the movie’s entirety.  I was instantly hooked.

This very classic tale of small-town girl moving to the west coast with a head full of dreams gets a dark and bloody makeover through director Nicolas Winding Refn’s vision.  THE NEON DEMON is enriched with glitz, gloom, beauty and depravity.  It engulfs the audience and drags them straight into the dangerous world of high fashion Hollywood modeling, where we see our main character, Jesse (Elle Fanning), entering headfirst into the industry.  THE NEON DEMON is heavy with both subtle and apparent symbolism, with a rich motif representing the savageness of the animal kingdom in comparison to the nature of humanity.  It’s either kill or be killed in this line of work, with certain women that will do whatever it takes to stay at the top of the food chain.  Jesse is often referred to as being meek, having an innocent deer-caught-within-headlights look.  She’s beautiful, but dangerous, containing an illusionary essence that is aggressively sought after.  In this fierce world, predators both real and metaphorical surround her constantly – from the sleazy motel manager (played by Keanu Reeves), to the ferocious mountain lion that breaks into her room, and the large stuffed jungle cats that shadow the mansion’s interior; these purposeful elements are constant, adding a sense of dread towards the buildup of the plot’s finale.

The film’s ambiance feels like a power-induced high; a hazy dream-like state containing synthetic and animalistic properties.  It’s very primal, raw, and ritualistic, shrouded within a delicate veil of beauty.  The line between human and animal draws very thin, producing a world where the two are one in the same.

THE NEON DEMON delivers on multiple levels, and stands uniquely on its own; portraying a very real look into the depths of the fashion industry, while being wrapped in a dark and fictional package.  It shows the audience the very cutthroat nature that lies within everyone, regardless of how radiantly alluring they appear to be.  Beauty is only skin deep after all, and some will take devouring steps towards achieving vanity in its highest perfective state.

THE NEON DEMON is available to own on Digital HD & VOD and will be available to own on Blu-ray & DVD September 27.  Special features included on the Blu-ray and DVD are audio commentary with Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning along with two featurettes – “Behind the Soundtrack of THE NEON DEMON” and “About THE NEON DEMON.”

Abigail Braman
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