Keanu Reeves is mostly known for taking on lead roles in science-fiction and action epics, but he you may not know that he played a supporting role in 2016’s The Neon Demon starring Elle Fanning. This psychological horror film can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video, and is not for the faint or heart.
The Neon Demon, starring Elle Fanning and Keanu Reeves in a supporting role, is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Though the reviews for this sexy, yet sickening film have been polarizing to say the least, fans of director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) have given The Neon Demon a considerable amount of praise for its style, execution, and stark criticism of the fashion industry.
The Neon Demon can be considered a cautionary tale about the cut-throat nature of the fashion industry, and puts Elle Fanning’s Jesse in the middle of a tumultuous relationship with her peers, and the modeling agency she finds herself working for. Jessie is known for her natural beauty, but her rise to prominence is overshadowed by older models who are jealous of her beauty.
But when you look at the reviews, it’s clear that there is a very specific audience in mind for The Neon Demon, which explains why the reviews are so polarizing.
After an altercation at a casting call with an older model named Sarah, who cuts Jesse’s hand and sucks on her blood, Jess spirals into vivid hallucinations and succumbs to her underlying narcissistic personality.
During one such hallucination, Keanu Reeves’ Hank character, who owns the motel where she’s staying, forces her to sexually swallow a knife. Upon waking up from her nightmarish vision, she realizes that somebody is actually breaking into the neighboring room, which sets off a chain of events that eventually lead to her seeking safety her makeup artist Ruby’s home.
The Neon Demon continues to churn your stomach when Ruby, whose sexual advances were turned down by Jesse, ends up pleasuring herself with a corpse at her night job as a cosmetologist at a morgue.
The Neon Demon places a strong emphasis on the conniving nature of its subjects who live in a world that’s superficial on the surface, but sinister beneath its outermost layer of skin. We witness a form of storytelling that’s visually disturbing, but so visceral in its delivery that we can’t help but look away.
The Neon Demon‘s reception is all over the place; your enjoyment of this film will likely fall into “all or nothing” territory.
If you think about what’s trying to be accomplished, it makes sense that bloodsucking and back stabbing goes hand in hand with the highly competitive nature of the fashion industry that’s being illustrated in this film.
Some films are meant to be watched for their storytelling, but The Neon Demon has been referred to as a thrilling visual experience rather than a traditional movie. Make no mistake, a story is clearly being told, but the way its delivered doesn’t follow traditional filmmaking conventions. For this very reason, The Neon Demon‘s reception is all over the place; your enjoyment of this film will likely fall into “all or nothing” territory.
Commercially speaking, The Neon Demon did not fare well, and only grossed $3.4 million against a reported budget of $7 million. On the critical front, the film currently boasts a 59 percent critical score against an audience score of 51 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But when you look at the reviews, it’s clear that there is a very specific audience in mind for The Neon Demon, which explains why the reviews are so polarizing.
Writer Natasha Stagg speculated that The Neon Demon suffered at the box office because its subject matter was too close to home for its demographic. In other words, if an aspiring model watched this film, they may have a negative reaction because it highlights a heightened version of a toxic work environment that may not necessarily ring true in the real world, but still exposes the dark side of a particular industry.
The positive reviews tell an entirely different story, however. Critics have described The Neon Demon as a “hypnotic fever dream” full of hidden messages, moments of genius, and madness. Among those reviews, many critics have stated that The Neon Demon is Refn’s best movie, and worthy of your consideration.
If you take The Neon Demon at face value, you might not be ready to explore the sinister underbelly of the fashion industry that’s being illustrated by its storytelling. But if you’re willing to immerse yourself into the world that Refn has created, you’ll witness an exercise in experimental filmmaking that may have flown under your radar upon its initial release.