“Nicolas Winding Refn's Art House Horror”
So cool this movie could chill your fingertips, so slick you might have trouble hanging onto the Blu-ray case, so ludicrous at times that the beginning of this review is nothing in comparison, one of my favourite films of the year - and what feels like Nicolas Winding Refn’s hymn to the EuroHorror exploitation masters of the 1970s - comes to Blu-ray (which really is how this film should be seen) and DVD on the Icon label.
Ordinary-looking Elle Fanning comes to Los Angeles to pursue a modelling career. Standing out from the stick figures and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS alien wannabes she immediately gets signed by Christina Hendricks’ agency, after which Christina tells the other hopefuls they can leave in a set that could easily have been lifted from a Jess Franco film.
Jena Malone (building an impressive CV of decent genre pictures that includes this, THE RUINS and SUCKER PUNCH) is a photographer’s helper whose day job is probably the sexiest, best-dressed mortician ever (shades of Joe D’Amato, as opposed to the dollops we’re going to get in a bit). She takes Elle to the kind of disco that would have spun a young Dario Argento’s head right round.
Elle becomes more successful, engendering enemies as she goes until things reach a horrible and bizarre climax at Jena’s isolated country mansion as things become a mixture of scenes reminiscent of movies like D’Amato’s BUIO OMEGA and Franco’s VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, all given a real kick by Refn’s own glorious visual style.
I’ve mentioned some of my favourite Eurosleaze directors a lot here because if, like me, you’re a fan of their work you are going to love THE NEON DEMON. If you’re not, however, or if you’ve never heard of them, you may find yourself bewildered, offended, and possibly even a bit bored by a movie that is far stronger on style than it is on substance. Some of the camerawork and production design is evocative of other genre stylists like Peter Greenaway, especially his THE COOK THE THIEF HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER which contains an oddly similar denouement.
Of course if you’re a Refn fan you’re going to watch this anyway. If you’re not sure, this one has the languid pacing of VALHALLA RISING coupled with the visual sumptuousness of ONLY GOD FORGIVES. Be prepared to be patient and soak up the visuals rather than expect too much in the way of plot.
Icon’s Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary by Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning, a short piece on the score with Refn and composer Cliff Martinez, an interview with Refn and Fanning, an image gallery and a trailer.
Nicolas Winding Refn's THE NEON DEMON is out from Icon Home Entertainment on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and VOD from 31st October 2016