Neon signs first lit up hair salons and bars in Paris in the 1910s, before swiftly arrive in the US in the 1920s. They swept through the states, giving birth to New York’s Times Square and The Strip in Las Vegas.
It was Hitchcock that first used this lighting tool as a form creatively in film. The lighting in Vertigo demonstrates Neon being used as a psychological tool, externally visualising Scottie’s anxiety and fear. The trend was quickly adapted by Italian Giallo directors such as Dario Argento, who used the lighting to drench their scenes in vivid colours. Adding a crazy psychedelic look and feel to the film. From mainstream films such as Skyfall to Benoît Debie’s beautifully lit Lost River, this technique is used by movies big and small, across all genres.
Neon lighting can affect a film on many levels, adding a sense of atmosphere and emotion, and add colour and tone to any given scene. There is something eerily beautiful about neon. Maybe it’s to do with the soft ambience or the burst of primary colours, imbuing the scenes with vivid electric hues. So today we are looking at those films that do Neon well. We look at Neon Horror – The appeal of neon lighting.
Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Beyond the Black Rainbow is a film experience for the senses, mixing vivid imagery with an hypnotic analog synthesizer score. It’s hypnotic journey follows a heavily sedated woman with ESP trying to escape from the secluded commune where she’s been held captive.
Alleluia is a 2014 Belgian-French drama film inspired by the real-life criminal duo, the Lonely Hearts Killers. The films theme of obsession is payed out with strong visuals including scenes doused in electric light.
Byzantium is a 2012 Irish horror fantasy thriller about residents of a coastal town who learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort. The sexy and stylish fantasy thriller is pleasing to the eye with moody neon lighting setting the scenes. A must see for fans of vampire films.
A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife. Hitchcock’s masterpieces using neon lighting to representing Scotties fears derived from his acrophobia and vertigo. The clever use of light and image made Vertigo a a stunningly beautiful film.
Federico Zampaglione’s erotic thriller is a sleazy and dark story that pay homage to the 1970s italian cinema. A business woman with a secret double life is drawn into a series of murders at an executive sex club called Tulpa. The films frightening visual style is enhanced by the cinematography and lighting.
The Stand (1994)
The Stand is a 1994 American television miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. After a deadly plague kills most of the world’s population, the remaining survivors split into two groups – one led by a benevolent elder and the other by a maleficent being – to face each other in a final battle between good and evil. The film used Neon hues to represent dreams throughout the show, often to terrifying effect.
Spring Breakers (2012)
Spring Breakers is a 2012 American thriller about four college girls caught up with a drug dealer whilst on their spring break vacation. It’s campy, comic and violent , and heavily dosed in electric hues at every turn.
Baskin is a 2015 Turkish surreal horror about a Policemen facing a night of horror after becoming stuck in a subterranean labyrinth. The films dark and chilling visuals are lit with beautiful neon glows.
The springboard for ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’, Vamp sees two fraternity pledges travel to a sleazy bar in search of a stripper for their college friends, unaware it is occupied by vampires. The films dull urban settings are visually overhauled with neon glows giving the film a fun, comic feel.
An American college student in Rome and his sister in New York investigate a series of killings in both locations where their resident addresses are the domain of two covens of witches. The films narrative is incoherent, but the film’s strong visuals helps to keep the audience watching.
An anthology which tells five terrifying tales based on the stories by Stephen King. Keeping with the films comic book style, the film is heavily lit with neon hues throughout.
When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has. Whilst the film’s story is a little thin, the strong electric visuals make this film more of an art piece than a feature film.
A neon-colored nightmare from Italian terror maestro Dario Argento, which tells the tale of a coven of witches at a ballet school. The entire film is drenched in electrics glows and hues, giving the film a rich, vibrant and unsettling feel.
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All good things come to an end!
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“Top of the day Horror Fans – What a BRIGHT idea, Neon Horror. These films are easy to look at but HARD to watch. I love it when film-makers are creative and these movies are great examples of thinking outside the box. The use of neon light can turn a boring set into a HIVE of colour!