Neon- the dramatic glow of color cast against the dark night sky. For what gives neon its characteristic radiance but its very contrast from the surrounding darkness? Our Neon Nightmares lineup perfectly exemplifies the alluring beauty of the neon lights while still acknowledging (if not also epitomizing) that very same darkness. Each of these films offer vibrant, at times breathtaking aesthetics, but enwrapped in an exploration of somber and sinister themes.
Our Neon Nightmares series kicks off with Dario Argento’s giallo masterpiece Suspiria!
When young dancer Suzy (Jessica Harper) travels to attend a prestigious ballet school in Germany, she arrives on a late, stormy night. Instead of being let inside, she witnesses fellow student Pat (Eva Axén) fleeing from the school in a panic before she is mysteriously murdered. As more people die, Suzy finally uncovers the long, terrifying secret history of the place.
Bright, bloody, and vivid, Suspiria is a dazzling thriller that is as colorful as it is chilling.
Spring Breakers (2012)
Harmony Korine’s hyper-drama Spring Breakers runs as part of our Neon Nightmares series.
A group of four bored college friends ache for their own spring break experience but don’t have the money to fund such a venture. After successfully holding up a diner together, the group follows their classmates to the beach for sex, drugs, and endless parties. Once they meet bad-boy rapper and drug dealer Alien (James Franco), their vacation spirals into an increasingly dangerous and unreal trip.
Nihilistic yet euphoric, Spring Breakers is a neon-drenched satire bathed in the bright lights of a Floridian spring.
Good Time (2017)
The Safdie Brother’s crime-thriller masterpiece Good Time continues our Neon Nightmares series.
After a bank robbery gone wrong lands his developmentally disabled brother in police custody, perennial loser and compulsive liar Connie Nikas must do everything he can to make bail, regardless of any costs and all consequences, but as his lies escalate and the night continues, so do the stakes. Visually frenetic and emotionally gripping, Good Time introduced many audiences to the same storytelling and visual style that the Safdie’s continued to perfect in their 2019 follow up, Uncut Gems.
Featuring a standout performance by star Robert Pattinson following his transition from Twilight to more “indie” fare, Good Time is the first movie in a long while to have this filmgoer literally on the edge of his seat from beginning to end. A wonderful example of the Safdie Brother’s ability to cast unexpected actors in unconventional roles and extract truly engrossing performances, Good Time is both a nail-biter through and through and an outstanding exploration of the bond the defines brotherhood.
The Neon Demon (2016)
At times both deeply troubling and visually engrossing, The Neon Demon is peak Refn. Only a director with such a deep appreciation for both the beautiful and the disturbed could create such a dark yet alluring film.
Following sixteen-year-old Jesse (as played by Elle Fanning) as she pursues a modeling career in Los Angeles, The Neon Demon is anything but predictable. After meeting makeup artist Ruby, who introduces her to fellow older models Sarah and Gigi, the naive Jesse must navigate the dark underbelly of the modeling world, constantly questioning the intentions of her peers and whether she can trust anything and everything she is told. Visually striking and emotionally unsettling all at once, The Neon Demon shows beauty and pain are not only intertwined, but more than just skin deep.
The Wild Goose Lake (2019)
From acclaimed director Diao Yinan, THE WILD GOOSE LAKE is the eagerly anticipated follow-up to his 2014 Berlinale winning neo-noir BLACK COAL, THIN ICE. Toppling box office records in Diao’s native China, THE WILD GOOSE LAKE “cements his status as a master filmmaker with another ingenious crime epic” (Little White Lies).
When small-time mob leader Zhou Zenong (Chinese superstar Hu Ge) accidentally kills a cop, a dead-or-alive bounty is placed on his head, forcing him on the lam from both the police as well as dangerous gangsters out for the reward. Hiding out in China’s densely populated (and deeply divided) Wuhan province, Zhou becomes entangled with a beautiful, enigmatic woman, who has mysterious intentions of her own. Featuring gorgeous, neon-drenched cinematography and bursts of shocking, expertly choreographed action, THE WILD GOOSE LAKE is “spellbinding” (Rolling Stone), “brilliant” (Indiewire) and “downright Hitchcockian” (AV Club).
Enter the Void (2009)
We wrap our Neon Nightmares series with Gaspar Noe’s psychedelic odyssey Enter the Void.
Set in metropolitan Tokyo, Enter the Void follows Oscar, a young ex-pat living with his sister, after a friend attempts to turn his interest from drug dealing to Buddhism, giving him The Tibetan Book of the Dead. After a night out takes an unexpected turn, we join Oscar on an out of body experience as we soar over the streets of Tokyo and are given a voyeuristic look into his past and the effects of his past decisions on those closest to him.
Known for its breathtaking cinematic form, Enter the Void is presented almost entirely through the experience of its central protagonist- either through the literal first-person perspective of his eyes or the perspective of his spirit as it drifts through Tokyo. Much of the film is shot in impressively long takes and offers the viewer striking imagery throughout. It is little wonder why it is considered by many to be Noe’s greatest work so far.