With "The Neon Demon," director Nicolas Winding Refn seems to have come to the end of a trilogy that began with "Drive" (2011) and continued through "Only God Forgives" (2013). The idea seems to be to take genre-flick styles — car action, revenge and horror — and unravel them to the point where they become pure sensation, almost abstractions.

"Drive" was more of a "normal" film, but even so, it was less about its Hollywood stuntman-by-day, getaway-car driver-by-night story than about the reverie of motoring through Los Angeles at night in a blur of shimmering neon and chrome to the sound of super-cool synthwave. "Only God Forgives" looked like a dive into Bangkok's fight-club and go-go bar underground, but played out like a trippy internal exploration of the Oedipal urge, with star Ryan Gosling lost in its womb-like maze of red corridors.

And now we come to "The Neon Demon," which is superficially about the fashion industry, its dog-eat-dog Darwinism and the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder — something that Refn makes nauseatingly literal by the last reel. While more coherent than "Only God Forgives" — and mercifully absent of that film's sleepwalking-style performances — "The Neon Demon" is soaked in surrealism, more nightmare than narrative, as some sort of bastard witch-house hybrid of 1980s French cinema du look and Italian horror.