Di­rec­tor Ni­co­las Wind­ing Refn peels back the lay­ers of can­ni­bal hor­ror movie The Neon De­mon...

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Ni­co­las Wind­ing Refn and Elle Fan­ning spill their se­crets.

“It’s a teenage hor­ror film for teenagers,” says Ni­co­las Wind­ing Refn of his lat­est film, The Neon De­mon. Think a can­ni­bal movie di­rected by Hel­mut Lang and you’re some way to un­pick­ing this bloody skew­er­ing of the fash­ion in­dus­try, a film that feasts on our global ob­ses­sion with per­fec­tion in its story about 16-year-old LA new­comer Jesse (Elle Fan­ning), a wannabe model with a nat­u­ral beauty that leaves all her peers en­vi­ous.

“The world of fash­ion is so won­der­ful to ma­noeu­vre,” says the Dan­ish-born Refn (Only God For­gives). “In a way, it’s so campy and so ridicu­lous. But also it’s so beau­ti­ful and in­tox­i­cat­ing, so it’s a very di­verse world.” The cat­tle-calls, shown in the film, where girls are re­jected or hired are “very evil and very dis­gust­ing,” he says. “You are just a piece of meat…[but] cast­ing a movie is the same way. There’s some­thing very sadis­tic about hav­ing power, es­pe­cially over women from a male per­spec­tive.”

Now 18, Fan­ning was the same age as Jesse when the film was made. “Since we shot in chrono­log­i­cal or­der, it was amaz­ing,” she notes. “I could re­ally track her lit­er­ally turn­ing into a com­plete nar­cis­sist. In the be­gin­ning, we talked about her as Dorothy from Wiz­ard Of Oz – she’s plopped into this world and you don’t re­ally know where she comes from but she’s in­no­cent and wide-eyed, look­ing at these sparkly things.”

Need­less to say, in­no­cence turns to ex­pe­ri­ence as she meets a worldly-wise make-up artist (Jena Malone) and two haughty mod­els (Abbey Lee, Bella Heath­cote) who, it seems, have a taste for blood. “It’s not the act of can­ni­bal­ism that’s in­ter­est­ing – it’s what they con­sume,” says Refn. “And I thought it was very in­ter­est­ing that beauty

The world of fash­ion is so won­der­ful to ma­noeu­vre. It’s so beau­ti­ful and in­tox­i­cat­ing

will start con­sum­ing it­self, be­cause the per­cep­tion and the ob­ses­sion with beauty con­tin­ues to sky­rocket.”

Feel­ing like Refn’s sec­ond love-let­ter to Los Angeles after his 2011 cult crime tale Drive – “it’s such an in­cred­i­ble place to work,” he says – The Neon De­mon takes on the city in much the way David Lynch’s Mul­hol­land Drive did, as a seething hot­bed of car­nal­ity. “For a while I thought LA was ‘the neon de­mon’ in a way be­cause that city is so haunt­ing but so en­tic­ing,” says Fan­ning. “It sucks you in but it will spit you out.”

Refn is rather hes­i­tant to fully ex­plain “The Neon De­mon” – sym­bol­ised by a series of glow­ing tri­an­gles Jesse sees dur­ing a cat­walk show. “I prob­a­bly saw it in some [oc­cultist] Aleis­ter Crowley book I had,” he says. “And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the sign of The Neon De­mon’ – es­pe­cially when it was in neon. There’s some kind of glow to that; an al­most crea­ture-like in­stinct to it. There’s some­thing vul­gar, there’s some­thing glam­orous about neon.”

Dubbed “a Robert Palmer video di­rected by Dario Ar­gento” by one critic, it cer­tainly has that feel of the Ital­ian hor­ror mae­stro in a dream scene where Keanu Reeves, play­ing the sleazy man­ager at Jesse’s mo­tel, thrusts a knife into her throat. “Just hav­ing Keanu with a knife in some­one’s throat is ex­cit­ing,” says Refn. “Keanu’s the fuck­ing best.” Just don’t ac­cuse Refn of look­ing back. “I make films,” he says, “for the fu­ture.”

The Neon De­mon opens on 8 July.

DON’T QUOTE ME “JOHN CAR­PEN­TER PRE­DICTED THE 21ST CEN­TuRY IN They Live WITH MORE AC­Cu­RACY THAN THAT FRENCH APOTHECARY guY, NOSTRADAMuS.” guillermo del Toro is in love with the hor­ror au­teur.

We’re not say­ing it got tense on set, but…

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