In a grim and rain-soaked city, what begins as a couple’s phone conversation swiftly becomes a desperate negotiation for their future. NEON plunges us headfirst into a world of quiet desperation as we watch one man’s desperate bid for his own future against powers beyond our comprehension.
Or perhaps even a universe beyond our comprehension.
Director Mark J. Blackman (along with his team) makes spectacular use of special effects to give us a throbbing, vibrant world. Gorgeous panoramas of storm clouds and cityscapes, decrepit warehouses, and lonely streets all serve to make the setting as dynamic and alive as any of the film’s characters. Hell, based on a few of the clues dropped throughout the film, that might even be the case; the sometimes-indifferent, sometimes-capricious backdrop serving as a stand-in for the unnamed antagonists in play.
Of course, this is where the film struggles. While the cryptic dialogue absolutely draws the attention, it often feels that substance is lost in favor of style. Although the film’s breakneck pace means that it’s never boring, piecing together the scattered clues and fragmented scenes can be difficult as we’re dragged relentlessly forward. I’ve said before that I appreciate not being spoonfed, but it is nice to have a chance to chew and swallow.
That said, the fifteen minutes we’re given thoroughly routs plenty of longer films, both in style and in acting. The physical manifestation of a stick of beef jerky that is Joe Absolom (Eastenders, Doc Martin) gives us a believable and enigmatic lead and Kerry Bennett (Hollyoaks, Casualty) is completely convincing in her role. Special kudos to Blackman et al. that Bennett’s character is not cast as some damsel-in-distress but as a very real and very compelling audience surrogate.
One specific use of a time-freeze special effect is particularly impressive, and the color saturation throughout gave incredible depth to what would otherwise be perfectly mundane surroundings. Ultimately, it’s there that the charm of NEON actually lies- the ability to not only make the fantastic feel believable, but to make it feel that it could be in the apartment next door.
NEON has premiered at the Horror Channel Fright Fest and will be shown at the Another Hole in the Head SF Indiefest on October 29th. Be sure to drop by in upcoming days for our exclusive interview with director Mark J. Blackman!