Danish provocateur Nicholas Winding Refn hit the mainstream in 2011 with the superb L.A. noir thriller Drive, before falling victim to his own artistic indulgence with the tedious Only God Forgives, leaving some to ponder whether he’d lost the plot.
His latest film, The Neon Demon, doesn’t really have one to lose –Refn is even more focused on affectation and artifice, bombarding the audience with hypnotic and surreal visuals at the expense of narrative. It also moves at a glacial pace, but at least it’s a feast for the eyeballs.
This is hipster horror: a fashion house giallo set in a sinister L.A. that’s as much an ode to Dario Argento and David Lynch as Drive was to Michael Mann. Refn’s touchstones are Suspiria and Mulholland Drive, with Elle Fanning as the doe-eyed ingenue who has “that thing” required to make it big in the cutthroat modelling business. That’s if she can survive sleazy photographers, a scumbag hotel owner (Keanu Reeves), and her jealous peers who want to devour her glamour – literally, given eating disorders include cannibalism.
The Neon Demon is as super-stylish and artificial as the world it depicts, but like its predatory models, needs more meat on its bones.
In cinemas: October 20, 2016
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves
Directed by: Nicholas Winding Refn