Film Review: The Neon Demon (2016)

NThe horror film that has had the mainstream and indie world talking this year is Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. It is a rare occurrence that a film can create as much interest in the underground as it does in the mainstream. This is mainly due to the reputation of the director. He has consistently put out good films, many with Ryan Gosling, showing that he may be one of the most important directors of this era. Films like Drive, Only God Forgives, and Bronson have shown that Refn can create truly original films. He can take common stories and add a modern twist. His filming techniques and interesting views on filming violence also create insanely memorable cinematic experiences, whether the viewer enjoyed the film or not.

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The Neon Demon is a film that proves to be Refn being Refn. He has once again managed to create an odd film that is insanely visual. Additionally, the soundtrack is so good that it may even be considered a major character in the film. It is also truly horrific. This film created quite a stir, disturbing viewers of the mainstream with footage that we in the indie and underground world see all of the time.

Thanks to his budget, Refn has managed to create a film that will become a horror classic. It is the Suspiria of this generation. It will also get repeated viewings from me for this very reason. I am always returning to Suspiria for the visual and auditory experience that it creates. Suspiria, after all, is not necessarily a gore fest or member of a stale genre. It is another film that deals with vanity, female power, and sporadic scenes of brutal violence to create a different kind of horror film.

Other films that surely influenced Refn must have been the works of David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Cronenberg, and Darren Aronofsky. You see, this film’s story-line is not as original as you may think. Like with Drive, he just manages to create a new type of experience from a genre film. This film employs the strange character interactions and obsessive themes of Mulholland Drive. He uses gore effects and absurd sexual content in the style of Cronenberg. His set designs and overall tone have an art-house feel similar to that of a Jodorowsky film. It also manages to take the award winning Black Swan to a whole new level. So while films of this variety (Starry Eyes) are becoming more common, this will be the one that film geeks find themselves going for in the future.

With so much homage, it is hard to make a film stand out on its own. So while I found myself definitely enjoying this movie, I also felt like I was constantly comparing it to other movies. This is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes the constant comparisons can distract the viewer from the film at hand. This negative from my perspective could also just be because I have seen so many films. For instance, the scene of necrophilia that disgusted my wife was tame in my eyes. I, of course, have seen at least ten films this year that involve some sort of necrophilia; and as we all know, the necrophilia in the underground films tends to be far more disturbing and repulsive than anything being handled by the Hollywood censors.

So with that being said, it is definitely going to be one of the top horror films of the year. It will probably evolve into a cult sensation and horror classic. At this point in cinematic history, we are seeing a new generation of master directors. In the nineties, the indie filmmakers like Jarmusch, Van Sandt, Smith, Tarantino, Rodriguez, and Von Trier paved the way for filmmakers to break the rules. Today, Innaritu, Refn, Nolan, Linklater, and Aronofsky are effectively carrying on that tradition.

So while this isn’t going to be in my top 3 horror films of the year, it will probably end up in the middle of the top ten. Right now it is a pretty expensive Blu-ray purchase, for a stripped down version with weak special features. Since I don’t usually buy films on the week of their release, I’m pretty happy with spending the extra couple of dollars early for this one.

Author: Steven Paul

Born and raised in Michigan, slowly dying in Florida. I’m here to keep you informed about everything in the world of indie horror. I also specialize in all genres of exploitation, cult, and extreme cinema. As part owner and Editor of Film and Television for Beneath the Underground, it is my responsibility to provide vast amounts of information for the horror fan and an outlet for the filmmaker.

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