Nicolas Winding Refn’s new female-driven horror flick The Neon Demon has drawn two more actors, Keanu Reeves (John Wick, 47 Ronin) and Christina Hendricks (Drive, Mad Men), into its midst. Although the details of the plot are unclear at this time, the story has been previously summarized as “an aspiring young model is caught in a world of beauty and demise.”
This is Hendricks’ second time working with Refn – her first, a supporting role in Drive – and Reeves’ first. Elle Fanning (Maleficent) has been cast as the lead, with Jena Malone (Sucker Punch, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) signed on as well.
This production is significant for Refn – the Danish filmmaker who directed cult films like Drive, Only God Forgives and Valhalla Rising – seeing as this is both his first true horror film as well as his first female-centric storyline.
Refn’s previous work has a recognizably virile aesthetic that tends to favor a dominant male presence, i.e. the stoic Ryan Gosling (Drive) and Mads Mikkelsen (Valhalla Rising, Casino Royale) or the über-masculine Tom Hardy (Bronson, 2008). Although women are present in Refn’s films, they remain secondary characters and plot catalysts; The Neon Demon will mark the first occasion of a Refn cast dominated by women rather than men.
His leap into the horror genre is not as unusual as his gender-switching perspective, however. According to a 2012 interview, Refn describes how 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the film that inspired him to begin making movies:
My parents were brought up on the French New Wave. That was God to them, but to me it was the antichrist, and how better to rebel against your parents than by watching something your mother is going to hate, which were American horror movies.
Refn also admits that his films share a common theme of violence- an element that will no doubt be infused into The Neon Demon -acknowledging that the presence of this element is somewhat ironic, considering how he is self-described as “effeminate:”
…I think that art is an act of violence. Art is a flow of emotions and those emotions are basically created with a mixture of love and hate, lust and anger. It’s a contrast.
The Neon Demon is co-written by Refn and Mary Laws, a graduate of Yale’s playwriting program, and due in theaters by 2016.