Neon Maniacs [1986]

Entertaining and oftentimes hilarious, Neon Maniacs is a piece of eighties memorabilia that needs to be seen to be believed. The story is crazy and unbelievable with stereotypical characters and a distinct eighties atmosphere. Budget and production problems forced radical changes to the script, explaining a lot of the nonsensical elements especially when it comes to the characters. Considering all this, the end product isn’t half-bad. Actually, this might even made it a better movie. There are a couple of scenes where the director makes it pretty clear they knew this is a cheesy, tongue-in-cheek affair. I think they were going for that popular mixture of frights and laughter that worked so well in other movies.

Fast-paced and with a lot of unintentionally funny scenes, you will enjoy every second of this insanity. There’s also a lot of gore with our Maniacs killing off teenagers in their signature ways. Heads and hands will be chopped off, people strangled or just plain old butchered. Just turn off your brain and prepare to witness one of the more bizarre and strangely endearing eighties horrors.

Neon Maniacs, as its title suggests is a creature feature in the truest sense of the word. We get a dozen weird-looking creatures looking to kill our protagonists. Why no one knows. We also don’t know their painfully obvious backstories that you can guess from their wardrobe. They all live harmoniously under the Golden Gate Bridge coming out only at night to stalk its prey. Right off the bat, you’ll be naming them Ape-man, Hangman, Biker, or Evil Surgeon. Pretty much the same way they’ll be credited at the end of the movie. You can say that Neon Maniacs paved the way for movies released a couple of years later like Nightbreed or Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, also featuring a menagerie of monsters. You would be wrong, but you can say it still.

It’s another warm and magical night in the city of San Francisco as young Natalie and her friends are celebrating her birthday in a local park. Without a care in the world, they are all having fun, not knowing that danger lurks in the dark. Suddenly, a group of disfigured and evil-looking creatures that once were men attacks our merry band. Only Natalie survives the attack and when she tries to explain what happened, nobody believes her. That, however, is not her only problem. The creatures intend to finish the job and kill her and everyone who gets in their way.

Starring beautiful Leilani Sarelle, who you might remember from Basic Instinct, Clyde Hayes as your average eighties good guy, and Donna Locke as the nerdy kid, the cast did alright. I don’t know what exactly makes Neon Maniacs such a pleasurable experience. It could be the time-capsule soundtrack complete with three songs performed in full during the eighties battle of the bands. On the other hand, it could be the grotesque creatures with pretty good make-up moving awkwardly while trying to look menacing. It could be the awfully tacky sound effects. It could be the little things like the nerdy kid wearing a Nostromo crew cap. And I could go on and on, but it’s best that you see the movie decide for yourself. Just think of Gremlins and how these vile-looking creatures found a place in all our hearts and prepare to make room for Neon Maniacs!

The movie ends with an ominous line This rain won’t last forever, revealing plans for a sequel that simply wasn’t meant to be. This is a shame because I would love to see a talented and creative filmmaker try and make sense of this mess. Come up with an elaborate and clever backstory of why this is all happening. Or just continue the insanity in an updated setting. Something like what American Horror Story did. However, I don’t think that’s going to happen. But a girl can dream? Dream of Neon Maniacs that is!

Director: Joseph Mangine

Writer: Mark Patrick Carducci

Cast: Clyde Hayes, Leilani Sarelle, Donna Locke, Victor Brandt, David Muir, Marta Kober, James Acheson, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, John Lafayette

Fun Facts: Andrew Divoff’s film debut.

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