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May 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A horror flick playing at the Cannes Film Festival? Ah, yes, but as you might expect, The Neon Demon, starring Elle Fanning, is no ordinary horror flick. After it was screened on Friday, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn was praised by critics for his uncompromisingly artistic approach to the genre, even as many of them booed, hissed, and shouted obscenities at the screen of the Palais de Festival. Some at the press/industry screening didn’t bother even waiting until the film was over to register their displeasure; they did so with their feet. Demon was likely the most walked-out-on movie of this year’s festival. Their disapproval was all the more surprising given Refn’s repute. (This was his fourth movie to be selected to compete for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.) And many critics did find much to admire about Demon. “This is purely an exercise in style, and what style!” wrote Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek enthusiastically. However, she admitted that she and many of her colleagues emerged from the theater asking, “What the hell did we just watch?” Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter, while calling the film “stultifyingly vapid, ponderously paced,” nevertheless allowed that it could “become a guilty pleasure for jaded scenesters and specialized audiences looking for the latest outré offering.” As for himself, McCarthy concluded, “There have been many previous occasions when sumptuous filmmaking craft has been placed at the service of dubious and derelict material, but The Neon Demon is this year’s model.” But Robbie Collin in the London Telegraph had no such misgivings about the movie. Giving it a 5-star review, Collin wrote that it is a “work of zero artistic compromise – a glittering, etherized nightmare, drenched in cold sweat, with a dark, coiled-panther energy that springs at you in fitful, snarling bursts.” However, Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times appeared to acknowledge that he didn’t know what to make of the movie, writing, “How you approach the sick, ravishing object that is Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is entirely up to you. Nervy feminist provocation or misogynist freakshow? Hypnotic art piece or exploitative trash? I’m still wrestling with it myself, and have not yet ruled out the possibility that it may be all of the above.”