Zombies have taken over Los Angeles in the form of dead-eyed, slack-jawed models subsisting on caffeine, nibbles of fruit, and presumably lots of drugs.

In Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon, zombies have taken over Los Angeles in the form of dead-eyed, slack-jawed models subsisting on caffeine, nibbles of fruit, and presumably lots of drugs. It feels a bit like Black Swan, with relationships between beautiful women conveying envy and lust and violence all at once, but it's less effective because each character is astonishingly boring and unlikable.

Describing The Neon Demon (a title almost as unpronounceable as The Rural Juror) as a psychological thriller gives it too much credit. The scenes that were meant to evoke nervous tension were mostly met with either laughter or repulsion: after investing in the characters so little, and seeing no pretense of friendliness between them, I was not particularly shocked by these women literally ripping each other apart. The only moments that seemed to ruffle the audience were horrifyingly violent and pornographic—and lasted far too long.

Seattleites might find a few themes to latch on to as they look down on Los Angeles, clutching their coffee with a pinky high in the air. "Those idiots, so obsessed with material things and virginal/gullible beauty. Look at those silly women, with nothing better to do than to try to model." But the schadenfreude is unfulfilling, and makes the characters and plot lines feel even more distant and irrelevant.

The film's single redeeming quality is its visual style. I have never seen the flashing lights of Los Angeles (nightclubs, photographer's flashbulbs, car after car after car passing in the night) portrayed so convincingly or in such a captivating way. This is as close as The Neon Demon gets to Drive, the film that made its director famous. Unsurprisingly, Demon's beauty is the main draw—but at least there's enough of it, captured uniquely and elegantly, to make walking out of this otherwise disappointing film unimaginable. recommended