The Neon Demon

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (2016) BBFC cert. 18

Catwalk models will kill to keep their place at the top of the fashion food chain in this boldly provocative and pale skinned horror show.

Taut performances combine with an uncompromising visual style which is underpinned by a techno score. The recurring presence of big cats and the slow glide of the camera create a sense of a victim being stalked.

There are images of bondage and an emphasis on reducing people to sinew, muscle, bone, hair and lipgloss.

Elle Fanning stars as ambitious model Jesse who arrives on the bitchy and backstabbing  LA fashion scene. She lives in a cheap motel whose seedy motel owner Hank is played by a brilliantly seedy Keanu Reeves.

Christina Hendricks previously appeared in Refn’s Drive (2011) is here as a modelling agent who archly dispenses euphemistic career advice. Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote are conspiratorial and competitive fellow models.

In order to succeed Jesse chooses to immerse herself in the exploitative world of photographers, agents and make-up artists.

She adopts an emotional mask for protection from recurrent threats of rejection and rape. But this also creates a barrier to our sympathies and engagement.

Glossy and reflective surfaces reflects the empty narcissism of the LA inhabitants and the pristine environs suggest the sci-fi world of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

The short shelf life of a models career recalls the limited timespan of the living mannequins of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), as well as the youth obsessed society of Logan’s Run (1976).

Similar to its blank eyed protagonists, The Neon Demon obsesses over its own sleekly manicured surfaces, making it a film hard to get to grips with.


The Legend of Tarzan

Director: David Yates (2016) BBFC cert. 12A

There’s no animal magic when the lord of the apes returns in this action adventure.

Now with over fifty movies plus TV series, cartoons and video games to his name, I’m not sure we need another, especially one this inconsistent, unconvincing and dull.

Set in 1886, the imperialist story of an infant English lord raised by gorillas has been refashioned as an anti-colonial and anti-slavery tale. Although the Africans are still forced to say stereotypical things such as ‘As is custom.’

Played by ripped Swede Alexander Skarsgard from TV’s True Blood, Tarzan has the speed of a lion, the agility of an ape, the endurance of an elephant and the charisma of a giraffe.

He can replicate the mating call of every jungle animal, so presumably his teenage years were interesting.

Now living in London as Lord Greystoke, he goes back to the Congo to investigate rumours of slavery by the beastly Belgians. Once there his local friends are captured, their village is burned and his glamorous wife Jane is kidnapped.

Margot Robbie does her best to give Jane some kick ass quality but basically exists to be rescued. Samuel L. Jackson tags along as comic relief and though their banter is woeful, he shares better chemistry and more screen time with Tarzan than Jane does.

Christoph Waltz plays an ambitious army Captain in cahoots with Djimon Hounso’s chief Mbonga. Neither are required to stretch themselves.

With the first ever Tarzan movie released in 1918, the oldest swinger in town is getting a little creaky.

The animated gorillas, alligators and elephants are noticeably below par for an expensive wannabee blockbuster franchise and director David Yates has an uphill struggle with a  lacklustre script.

He’s in charge of the Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. It’s due in November and you’ll not discover any such creatures here.