Blu-ray Review Drama

'The Neon Demon' Blu-ray Review: Age before beauty, pearls before swine

September 27, 2016Ben MK

Is Nicolas Winding Refn shaping himself to become this generation's David Lynch? If so, he's certainly not being shy about it, as he makes his ambitions plainly obvious with The Neon Demon, a film that oozes Refn's signature style, and which also seems to be inspired in part by Lynch's Mulholland Dr.

Like Naomi Watts' character in Mulholland Dr., the heroine of The Neon Demon is a small town girl who has just arrived in the big city. Only 16-years-old, fresh-faced Jesse (Elle Fanning) aspires to make it big in L.A.'s cutthroat modelling industry. But while her youthful beauty soon has photographers, fashion designers and a makeup artist named Ruby (Jena Malone) fawning over her, it also incurs the wrath of the competition, namely a couple of jealous waifs named Gigi and Sarah (Bella Heathcoate and Mad Max: Fury Road's Abbey Lee).

For better or worse, The Neon Demon follows along the same lines as its predecessor, 2013's Only God Forgives, which is to say that this is yet another case of style triumphing over substance. Make no mistake, though, because when The Neon Demon is at its best, it's flat-out hypnotic, ensnaring audiences with trance-like rhythms and synthesized beats. At its worst, however, it feels like a music video that's outstayed its welcome, perplexing to no end with its milieu of random imagery, all of which is strung together by a threadbare, at times illogical, plot.

Suffice to say, Drive remains Refn's most commercially accessible movie-to-date. But in an age where we're constantly bombarded with sequels, remakes and adaptations, you have to at least respect a filmmaker who has the balls to push the boundaries of the medium. Without a doubt, The Neon Demon will divide — not to mention, gross out — the general moviegoing public. But for those who know and love Refn's filmography, it's as gorgeously surreal, darkly humorous and batshit crazy as anything he's ever committed to celluloid.

The Neon Demon's digitally-shot picture presents well on Blu-ray, with the 1080p image looking generally crisp and clean throughout. For the most part, however, this isn't the type of movie that serves as a showcase for eye-popping clarity, as the oftentimes surreal color palette tends to rob scenes of fine detail. That being said, the frequent shades of neon purples, pink, blue and green look particularly ravishing, with the only downside to this visual presentation being some banding, which is most visible during one scene around the 21-minute-mark, featuring a dusk sky. As for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix, that is truly the star of the show, allowing the film's highly atmospheric, utterly mesmerizing synth score to take center stage. Otherwise, the movie's sound design proves quite calm, focusing mainly on the dialogue, with minor supporting roles played by the sound of LA traffic, camera flashes, and, towards the film's end, the revving of a sports car engine and ocean waves.

D Films' single-disc Blu-ray release includes the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning - The co-writer/director and star talk about filming various scenes, the casting, the fake blood, shooting in chronological order, shooting digitally, the filming locales, the synthetic look of the movie, the budgetary limitations and more.
  • Behind the Soundtrack of The Neon Demon (5:08) - Director Nicolas Winding Refn and Composer Cliff Martinez discuss the music for the film and the integral role it plays.
  • About The Neon Demon (1:12) - A compilation of soundbites from Refn and various members of the cast, intercut with scenes from the film.

The Neon Demon is available from D Films as of September 27th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks. The film is presented with English SDH and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 58 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on June 24th, 2016.

You May Also Like