“You ever have a girl screw you out of a job?”
“What did you do?”
“I ate her.”
Early in Nicholas Winding Refn’s new film, Neon Demon, Jesse (Elle Fanning), a pretty young hopeful from the Midwest and a new arrival to L.A, walks back to her room, down the long balcony corridor of the seedy Pasadena motel where she’s staying. The lighting is lurid, the corridor horribly dark, and when Jesse arrives at her door and the grungy looking lock sticks, an initial feeling of unease rises to panic. Finally force opening the door, she feels for the light, switches it on. Only it doesn’t switch on, and we sense Something is waiting for her in her room. It thuds and moves, and Jesse screams and flees, back down the dark passage. She arrives at a hotel manager’s metal-mesh screen door and cries out for help. A dark, indiscernible figure appears behind the screen, and instead of the relief of the presence of another human being, here, it seems, is another threat. Even when the manager’s figure shifts into the light and we see his face, the menace does not lessen. Hank (Keanu Reeves) leers at Jesse, and when he finally yells for a friend, and the two men escort Jesse back to her room, we fear for her. The men hem her in as they walk, one going before her, one behind. The one in front casually rips away what looks like “Police Do Not Cross” tape. There’s a creeping horror, as we think, Jesse, this naïve innocent, must get out, must get away – and yet she walks on.
Jesse’s room, the three discover when they arrive, has been ransacked by a mountain lion; as the men beat the door open, breaking that sticking lock, the cat looms out of the darkness, a prowling lithe presence. Hank, infuriated, blames Jesse for the destruction of her room. She, he insists, brought the thing into the room. It’s a charge that is horribly unfair; Jesse, surely obviously, didn’t bring the cat into her room. She’s simply an unsophisticated Midwest girl who didn’t realize wild animals roam the hills around L.A., sometimes eating house cats or small pets left outside for the night. Maybe they even enter one’s home at times if a screen door is left open. Poor Jesse. She doesn’t get it. Continue reading “Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)”