The Neon Demon

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The Neon Demon
File:Neon demon.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Polly Stenham
  • Mary Laws
Story by Nicolas Winding Refn
Music by Cliff Martinez
Cinematography Natasha Braier
Edited by Matthew Newman
Distributed by
Release dates
  • May 20, 2016 (2016-05-20) (Cannes)
  • June 8, 2016 (2016-06-08) (France)
  • June 9, 2016 (2016-06-09) (Denmark)
  • June 24, 2016 (2016-06-24) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes
  • United States
  • Denmark
  • France
Language English
Budget $7 million[1]

The Neon Demon is a 2016 psychological thriller-horror film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and co-written by Mary Laws and Refn and starring Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves. The plot follows an aspiring model in Los Angeles whose beauty and youth place her in significant danger amongst the women she becomes associated with in the industry, who are murderous and dangerous.

In April 2016, it was announced that the film would compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival,[2][3] making the film the third consecutive film directed by Refn to compete for the Palme d'Or, following Drive and Only God Forgives.


Jesse (Elle Fanning), an aspiring model, moves to Los Angeles, where she is recruited by a fashion mogul (Alessandro Nivola) as his muse. Upon entering the city's modeling industry, she finds that her vitality and youth are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means to get what she has - and will go to extreme lengths to devour her beauty.



On November 3, 2014, Refn's production company Space Rocket Nation alongside its co-financiers Gaumont Film Company and Wild Bunch announced that Refn's next film would be titled The Neon Demon, to be filmed in Los Angeles, California in early 2015.[4]

In January 2015, Dazed reported that the script for the film was inspired by Elizabeth Báthory.[5] In discussing the script, which Refn co-wrote with Mary Laws, he stated: "I decided that I’d made enough films about violent men, and I wanted to do a film with only women in the film, and so I did this story because my wife would only go to L.A. if we had to travel out of Copenhagen. She’s like, ‘I’m done with Asia. I will only do Los Angeles.’ And so I came up with an idea and went to L.A., and I cast this woman called Elle Fanning who is absolutely fantastic, and she played the lead."[6]


On January 6, 2015, Elle Fanning joined the film to play an aspiring model, caught in a world of beauty and demise.[7] On January 29, Abbey Lee Kershaw was added to the cast to play the role of Sarah.[8] On February 5, more cast was added to the film, including Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone and Bella Heathcote.[9] On March 17, 2015, Karl Glusman was set to star in the film.[10] Desmond Harrington was added to the cast on March 30, 2015.[11]


Principal photography on the film began in Los Angeles on March 30, 2015.[12][13]


Composer Cliff Martinez, who collaborated with director Refn on Drive, stated the films have similar styles, musically speaking, noting that for The Neon Demon he sought a "sparse electronic score."[14] stated in an interview that the first half of the film resembles "a melodrama like Valley of the Dolls, and the second half is like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."[14] The soundtrack for the film will be released on June 24, 2016, physically and through digital download, before being released on Vinyl on July 8, 2016, by Milan Records.[15] Sia composed an original song for the film titled Waving Goodbye.[16] On 24 May 2016 at the Cannes Soundtrack 2016 awards, Cliff Martinez was recognised best composer of the Cannes film festival for his soundtrack to The Neon Demon.[17]


In November 2015, Amazon Studios acquired U.S distribution rights to the film.[18] Broad Green Pictures is partnering with Amazon on the films theatrical release.[19] The Jokers will distribute the film in France.[18] Scanbox Entertainment will distribute the film in Denmark.[20]

The film had its world premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2016.[2][3][21] It is set to be released in France on June 8, 2016.[22] It will then be released in Denmark on June 9, 2016.[20] It will be released in the United States on June 24, 2016.[23][24]

Critical response

The Neon Demon received mixed to positive from film critics.[25][26] It holds a 48% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10.[27]

Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave the film a positive review writing : "A horror film is what “The Neon Demon” is (sort of). It’s set in the Los Angeles fashion world, and it’s the kind of movie in which models look like mannequins that look like slasher-film corpses, and corpses look like love objects. Beauty mingles with mangled flesh, and each fastidiously slick image seems to have come out of “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” or “The Shining” or a very sick version of a Calvin Klein commercial. Every scene, every shot, every line of dialogue, every pause is so hypnotically composed, so luxuriously overdeliberate, that the audience can’t help but assume that Refn knows exactly what he’s doing — that he’s setting us up for the kill."[28]


  1. Leigh, Danny (May 12, 2016). "‘Movie blood tastes so good’ – on The Neon Demon set with Nicolas Winding Refn". The Guardian. Retrieved May 16, 2016. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "2016 Cannes Film Festival Announces Lineup". IndieWire. Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Cannes 2016: Film Festival Unveils Official Selection Lineup". Variety. Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  4. "Nordisk Film & TV Fond :: Nicolas Winding Refn Readies Danish/French Horror Tale". Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  5. Taylor, Trey (January 2015). "Five things we know about Nicolas Winding Refn’s new film". Dazed. Retrieved April 12, 2016. 
  6. Shaw-Williams, H. (September 7, 2015). "Nicolas Winding Refn on The Neon Demon’s Female-Dominated Cast". Screen Rant. Retrieved December 17, 2015. 
  7. Sneider, Jeff (January 6, 2015). "Elle Fanning to Star in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Horror Movie ‘Neon Demon’ (Exclusive)". Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  8. Fleming Jr, Mike (January 29, 2015). "Nicolas Winding Refn Sets Abbey Lee To Star In ‘Neon Demon’". Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  9. Keslassy, Elsa (February 5, 2015). "Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks Join Cast of Nicolas Refn’s ‘The Neon Demon’". Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  10. Kroll, Justin (March 17, 2015). "Karl Glusman Signs With WME; Joins Nic Refn’s ‘The Neon Demon’". Retrieved March 31, 2015. 
  11. McNary, Dave (March 30, 2015). "Desmond Harrington Joins Elle Fanning in ‘Neon Demon’". Retrieved March 31, 2015. 
  12. "On the Set for 3/30/15: Brad Pitt, Christian Bale & Ryan Gosling Start on 'The Big Short', Julianne Moore Wraps 'Maggie's Plan' & More". March 30, 2015. Retrieved March 31, 2015. 
  13. Lesnick, Silas (March 30, 2015). "Production Begins on Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon". Retrieved March 31, 2015. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Miska, Brad (March 15, 2016). "‘The Neon Demon’ Is ‘Valley of the Dolls’ Meets ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’?!". Bloody-Disgusting. Retrieved April 16, 2016. 
  15. Jaugernauth, Kevin (April 12, 2016). "Full Soundtrack Details Revealed For Nicolas Winding Refn's 'The Neon Demon,' Summer Release Scheduled". Retrieved April 18, 2016. 
  16. Evangelista, Chris (April 12, 2016). "Soundtrack Details and Release Date Info for Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon Revealed". Cut Print Film. Retrieved April 18, 2016. 
  17. "Cliff Martinez – Best composer of Cannes Soundtrack 2016 | Cannessoundtrack". Retrieved 2016-05-25. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Evry, Max (November 9, 2015). "Amazon Acquires The Neon Demon, Plus New Elle Fanning Image". Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  19. Hipes, Patrick (May 10, 2016). "Amazon’s ‘The Neon Demon’ U.S. Release Date Set As Broad Green Comes Aboard". Retrieved May 10, 2016. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 "The Neon Demon". Scanbox Entertainment. Retrieved May 4, 2016. 
  21. "Screenings Guide - 2016 Cannes Film Festival" (PDF). 16 May 2016. 
  22. Hayes, Britt (April 10, 2016). "‘The Neon Demon’ Reveals New Image and Fantastic Posters From Nicolas Winding Refn’s Latest". Retrieved May 4, 2016. 
  23. Staff, Variety (April 14, 2016). "‘Neon Demon’ Trailer: First Look at Nicolas Winding Refn’s Horror Film". Variety. Retrieved April 18, 2016. 
  24. Lowman, Rob (April 28, 2016). "See all the 2016 summer movies". Retrieved April 29, 2016. 
  25. Nordine, Michael. "'The Neon Demon' First Reactions: Walkouts, Yelling at the Screen and a Five-Star Review in Cannes". Indiewire. Retrieved 2016-05-21. 
  26. Barkan, Jonathan (May 19, 2016). "‘The Neon Demon’ Was Booed at Cannes". Retrieved May 19, 2016. 
  27. "The Neon Demon (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 21, 2016. 
  28. Gleiberman, Owen (May 19, 2016). "Cannes Film Review: ‘The Neon Demon’". Retrieved May 21, 2016. 

External links