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The Neon Demon: Jena Malone Dazzles In Nicolas Winding Refn’s Sleeper Hit of The Summer

This week, genre film aficionado Jeremy Morrison takes a look at Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest offering, “The Neon Demon.” The flick, which is gaining more buzz with each passing day, stars Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Elle Fannning, Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcote, Desmond Harrington and Karl Glusman.

The Plot: Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles just after her 16th birthday to launch a career as a model. The head of her agency (Christina Hendricks) tells the innocent teen she has the qualities to become a star. Jesse soon faces the wrath of ruthless vixens (Abbey Lee Kershaw and Bella Heathcote) who despise her fresh-faced beauty. On top of that, she must contend with a seedy motel manager (Keanu Reeves) and a creepy photographer (Desmond Harrington). As Jesse starts to take the fashion world by storm, her personality changes in ways that could help her against her cutthroat rivals.

The Review: This movie landed on my radar thanks to the fine folks over at Mr. Skin. Knowing next to nothing about the film, other than it promised a few nude scenes, I checked out the trailer and something clicked. I just had to see this film. Admittedly I have yet to see “Drive,” “Bronson” and “Only God Forgives.” Nothing against Nicolas Winding Refn, the films just haven’t found their way to my screen. The trailer for “The Neon Demon” just seemed like my kind of weird.

Arriving at the theater I was a little sketchy. The last time I asked for a solo ticket at the box office was for Rob Zombie’s “Halloween,” and though I have come to terms with the genius that is Rob Zombie’s comedies, at the time I left the theater swearing off all things horror convention chic. Things worked out a bit better this time around. I’m glad I followed my impulse to see the film as soon as possible before my social media feeds were flooded with high praise for the hit or miss film amongst critics and cinephiles alike. And yes, I understand the irony that I too am now flooding YOUR feed with MY opinion.


As far as the film itself, “The Neon Demon” is an actor’s dream and a cinematographers wet dream. Elle Fanning is able to capture the deer in headlights quality you’ll see on just about any newcomer to the Los Angeles scene. Keanu Reeves taps into one of his darkest roles yet as he oozes scum through the screen. Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee Kershaw play up the beautiful bitter bitch side of the model world. But the true standout in this picture is Jena Malone’s Ruby. Malone’s performance is powerful, folks. I won’t break down specifics as I would hate to spoil the experience for potential viewers, but I’ll say she does some of the heaviest lifting in the film and handles it with the ease and grace of a starlet. Can we agree to give Jena Malone all the movies from now on?

'The Neon Demon' is in theaters now!
‘The Neon Demon’ is in theaters now!

If Tumblr taught me anything about Nicolas Winding Refn, it’s his movies look amazing. “The Neon Demon” is no exception. Natasha Braier is behind the lens and proves she is one of the best shooters around. Every scene plays out like a beautiful nightmare. I mean this as respectfully as possible, but “The Neon Demon” looks and feels like Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” shot a hot, thick rope all over a Wes Anderson flick’s chest.


Jeremy Morrison – Staff Writer
Co-creator/host of the Acid Pop Cult Podcast, film reviewer, screenwriter, Jeremy has more than eight years experience in television and film production. His childhood fascination with the naked breasts featured in the “Friday the 13th” franchise prepared him for absolutely nothing in life. J-Mo lives by one motto: #wecantallbezacksnyder
Twitter: @acidpopcult
IG: @almostgothim

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