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Friday, July 25, 2014

Neon Maniacs

Neon Maniacs
1986
Joseph Mangine

Living underneath a the Golden Gate Bridge is a horde of strange humanoid monsters. Each maniac has its own unique style; samurai, commando, electrocutioner, etc. These maniacs head out into the night where they come upon some teenagers partying in a park. They murder them all but, Natalie (Leilani Sarelle). Natalie joins forces with a young man, and a would-be horror movie director to set a trap for the maniacs. They choose the battle of the bands at their high school to set a trap. Will their dumb plan work? Will the dumb cops figure out what's going on? Probably not, it wouldn't be much of a massacre then.

Neon Maniacs is one of those films that sounds perfect on paper. It has a great 80's synth score, a cavalcade of weird monsters, and plenty of victims to dispatch via fun practical effects. So why doesn't it work as well as it should? It is because Neon Maniacs lacks structure. I'm not saying story, a film like this can cruise by on a paper thin narrative. All it requires is a constant escalation of the threat. There's no need to explain who the maniacs are, or what they want. Any sort of background would diminish their mystery and thus so, their menace. But yet, they do need to act consistent and its here where Neon Maniacs fumbles. The monsters seem to be after Natalie, but seem to forget all about her by the time they attack the high school battle of the bands. Also, for monsters who are adverse to water you think they'd know not to go out when it's going to storm and would be careful to avoid puddles. The film also drags in the middle, as the maniacs disappear from the story all together. Forcing us to watch the characters fumble around desperate to convince anyone that the killers exist.

The antagonists of Neon Maniacs are it's greatest (and maybe only) strength. Their introduction via a cow skull containing a series of maniac trading cards is quirky enough to be memorable. Even if it makes zero sense. The rampage in the park is some wonderful stuff. Each maniac gets to do his signature attack, and there some amusing gags involving severed heads and fireworks. There is also an streak of odd humor throughout the movie. There is a funny moment with a cop riding a kid's BMX bike. The heroes devote a lot of time to their silly plan to arm the high school students with squirt guns. A plan that fails almost immediately once the hacking and chopping starts.

Neon Maniacs has some serious problems. For a monster-slasher hybrid film it is unusual enough that I'd definitely recommend it for that aspect alone. Code Red has released a beautiful looking Blu-ray that delivers a solid presentation. It looks amazing for a movie that was never expected to be much more than a minor VHS feature. There's a lot of love put into the effects, but its a shame a little more couldn't be lavished on the script.

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