The Neon Demon is a 2016 horror film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. The film is visually stunning, offers an incredible performance from its lead, and has truly shocking moments. It is highly critical of the fashion industry and societal pressures placed on women. While the first and second acts are equally as beautiful, it is the third act when the horror culminates. The tension gradually builds to a crazy and at times, confusing, climax.
Elle Fanning shined in the lead role of Jesse. She played the character as naive yet strong. While other characters tried to put her down throughout the film, she resisted and even pushed back as she fought for herself. Her downfall did not come until she grew overconfident. That is not to blame her - she did not deserve what happened to her at the end of the film, it’s just suggesting that the industry finally affected Jesse.
A small detail that I thought was interesting was the moral conscious of her boyfriend Dean, played by Karl Glusma. The film opens with his character photographing Jesse, who later reveals that she found him online. The way the film is edited, with his creepy stares, suggests he was going to harm her. Christina Hendrix’s character even warns Jesse to be careful - good advice in general, but this film builds his character up as one of the only moral actors in this universe. It was Dean who was the moral compass surrounded by people looking for exploitation, perversion, or vengeance.
The legitimate fashion industry is what finally broke Jesse and is what devoured the other women in the film, leading to the shocking climax.
Overall, The Neon Demon, is a unique and enjoyable film. You won’t see many like it. It is, without a doubt, one of the most visually striking movies of the last few years. It plays like a music video tour of the fashion industry. The cameos by Christina Hendrix and Keanu Reeves are fine, but it would have been nice to see them a little more. Elle Fanning shines as the lead.