There’s always something sinister lurking under the surface. That’s made abundantly true over and over again throughout life in experience after experience. Yes, some people are absolutely noble and genuinely want to help, but many others are out for themselves and have ulterior motives that are often in direct contrast to your own. You never know when a person or situation will turn dark and the real nature of those involved be exposed and the dreams of someone who was hoping for the best are dashed against reality. Such, as they say, is life.
The new movie The Neon Demon is about just such a dark underbelly being exposed. Elle Fanning plays Jesse, a young woman with dreams of being a model. When she joins an elite agency she thinks she’s struck it big. But she quickly finds out things are not as they seem and a group of women who are obsessed with beauty and youth are more dangerous than their surface-level jealousy would at first suggest. So Jesse must navigate a dark world with new threats that lurk around every corner while catering to a lifestyle that has its own downsides and traps.
The first poster shows Fanning drenched in dripping purple paint against a bright background with what seem to be lights on it. So it appears that she’s on display in some manner. The copy tells us “Beauty isn’t everything. It’s the only thing” so that tells us that we’re into some sort of weird dreamscape type setting, but no other details are offered.
The second poster continued to highlight the arty, stylistic nature of the world of the movie. Fanning is centered on the one-sheet, show in the middle of a triangle that divides the design in thirds, with two other women flanking her in the other sections created. The blue light of the triangle and the black, speckled look of the background evoke some sort of hip nightclub you’d expect to find in L.A. or New York, a feeling that’s accentuated but he red light that covers the three faces.
It’s high-concept, tells you nothing about the movie other than it’s likely set in high-fashion, exclusive places and generally does nothing but create a sense of mystery about the characters and the movie.
The single trailer opens with Jesse taking part in some sort of interview, where she’s told she’ll be fine despite the number of girls who wash out of this program. She obviously gets the gig and the rest of the trailer is about placing her in all sorts of sexual or otherwise dangerous situations. So she’s in bed, she’s being ogled from across the room at some party and so on.
It’s all about atmosphere here, with almost nothing coherent about the story being shared. Fanning looks gorgeous and it’s clear she’s in some sort of high-end entertainment field, but that’s about it. This is about announcing the movie with some stylistic visuals and on that front it works well.
Online and Social
There’s some full-screen video that plays behind the title treatment when you load the movie’s official website, which is built on Tumblr. Prompts in the upper-right hand corner encourage you to pre-order the soundtrack and/or buy tickets. And a button in the middle of the page wants you to watch the trailer.
If you scroll down you can see some of the posts that have been made to the site in the form of videos, GIFs and static images. The only other section of content is “About,” which has a short synopsis as well as a cast and crew list.
There are lots of short videos and more on the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. It also looks like the studio made a Sponsored Filter buy on Snapchat, allowing you to add some movie-inspired effects to people’s snaps.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing that I’ve see, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are online ads running either now or in the very near future.
Media and Publicity
Coming out of the movie’s screening at the American Film Institute Festival it was announced Amazon had picked it up and would distribute it both in theaters and through their streaming service. There was lots of buzz for the movie when the trailer debuted along with an appearance by both Fanning (in person) and Refn (via Skype) at Lionsgate’s CinemaCon presentation.
The movie debuting at Cannes gave Refn plenty of opportunities to talk about what drove him to tell this story, why he enjoys shooting movies in L.A., how getting an offer from Amazon represented the best of all worlds to him and more. That Cannes screening resulted in decidedly mixed reactions ranging from boos in the audience and reviews that ranged from calling it a piece of crap to five star enthusiasm.
In kind of a cool publicity move, the movie got not one but two premieres, one the official red carpet and the other a fan event including a Q&A with the cast and crew. Refn continued talking to the press about how he came up with the story, what the characters were meant to represent and more about his career in general. Fanning and some of her female costars did an interview and photoshoot for V Magazine that had them looking very arty and talking about the intersection of horror and fashion.
The campaign isn’t selling just a movie, it’s selling an experience, though it’s a very different kind of experience than what’s on display in the campaigns for Independence Day: Resurgence and some of this summer’s other big blockbuster releases. This is more intimate, more terrifying, more visceral. It’s more stylized and mysterious, promising a movie that will likely haunt you and which absolutely won’t appeal to the vast majority of the movie going audience. The marketing promises divisiveness and a conversation starter, to say the very least.
And that’s a good thing, at least for the health of cinema. There should be these kinds of movies that inspire passionate debates about how something is either a work of genius or borderline unwatchable shlock. The campaign doesn’t try to water down what looks to be a trippy, confusing but very distinct movie, instead leaning fully into that and making it clear to the audience that, essentially, thar be dragons. That will help someone who’s not afraid to be challenged make the decision to go and someone who’s more comfortable elsewhere avoid it at all costs.