Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review: Neon Maniacs (1986)

When I was a kid I was generally too busy to watch everything and, as such, some things got overlooked. We watched a lot of movies and I didn't stick around for all of them, resulting in me missing out on some films until I got old enough to develop a curiosity about those movies. I found myself delving deep into my past for things that I recall my mother renting or seeing written on our recorded VHS tapes. Because of this, I didn't see the Rambo films until I was already out of high school and I missed out on some truly noteworthy horror films (some of which I covered here). Then there are the ones that I cannot believe I passed up on.

Like a movie featuring 12 unique killers, one of which is a mutant samurai.

I may have been a pretty smart kid who had decent taste, but even I made mistakes and I firmly believe that passing up on Neon Maniacs had to be one of those mistakes. Here I was, a child who loved horror films...who worshiped Freddy Kreuger, and I didn't think watching a movie with twelve slashers in it was worth my time? Furthermore, it had neon in the title. NEON. How did I not watch this movie? How?! Anyway, I did finally watch it after coming across it years ago as I scoured the internet in search of movies I loved as a kid but had forgotten the titles of, such as The Runestone or Shock 'Em Dead. And there it was, the poster staring back at me with its assorted maniacs, mutants, and at least one zombie. I gazed upon the artwork and immediately knew I had to watch it. Now that I have this place I figured it'd be good to talk about this often overlooked slice of the 1980s horror scene.

Maybe I would've watched it had these nifty cards been marketed for public consumption. I loved cards.
Our story begins with a narration about how the Neon Maniacs will darken humanity's part or something along those lines. We then see a fisherman walking home who finds the cards above laying inside a cow skull next to a creaky door, so of course he checks them out and ends up getting killed but one the deformed creatures who wields an axe. The cards are then shown on the ground with blood splattered on them and we get our title as the cards show the other maniacs. We then get to our main character, Natalie, a young lady who is out with her friends celebrating her birthday. They stop to pick up beer and our main male lead, Steven, enters the picture as his dog runs to Natalie and licks her. Her friends act like assholes towards him though, as he's the son of a grocer. Yes, fuck that guy for having a job and money when he could be out drinking and getting murdered. How dare he!

"What a loser! He could be drinking and screwing in the park where no killers will ever bother us."
After we are introduced to the walking dead there, we then get to see our third main character, Paula, a young girl who loves horror and sci-fi. She spends most of her time designing masks and make-up for films she shoots with her friends. Can we just ignore the obvious lead and make Paula the lead? Because she's a lot more interesting and she has that charm that Natalie really doesn't have. I mean, Natalie isn't bad, but she's just so generic. Paula here is like a female Tommy Jarvis. Oh god, I just imagined Corey Feldman with tits. I need something to wash that out of my head.

This sounds like a job for Sasquatch porn. Of course, this could just be a picture of me having sex too.
Anyway, Paula heads to bed as we see her many cool masks, posters, and other such things in her room. We then get back to our idiot teenagers who are in the park doing such great activities like throwing firecrackers, revving up a motorcycle, playing football, and having unprotected sex. This is all being done as they drink to their heart's content. It's almost like they're begging to get killed. Natalie, on the other hand, is getting shit from her friend for being a virgin. Clearly Linda here is unaware of the reputation for virgins surviving horror movies. So, the maniacs show up and start offing the kids until it's finally just Natalie, hiding in the van as the monsters all try to break inside. But, suddenly they just sort of vanish and she's found by some patrolling officers. She's taken to the station as she recounts her story of her friends being murdered, but the cops think she was just pranked because there aren't any bodies. One cop doesn't really buy it, as it is pretty elaborate for a prank.

Those teenagers, always getting killed for laughs. When will they learn?

But, regardless, her remaining friend who wasn't out getting drunk comes to get her, and takes her home. At home she goes for a swim after hearing her mother's message about enjoying her vacation, but she doesn't realize that the caveman-like maniac is stalking her and it begins raining what appears to be blood. Luckily, it turns out to just be a dream and it's only raining normal rain. The Next day the cops go to investigate the scene of the crime, but only find slime and no bodies or evidence outside of it. We go back to Paula as her friend, a cop's kid, calls her and tells her about Natalie's story. Paula decides to go talk to Natalie about what happened as Steven moons over her from afar. Natalie's friend blows her off though and the sister of one of her now dead friends shows up trying to get information about what really happened to her brother out of Natalie. She doesn't like what she hears and Steven goes to Nat's aid.

He's so brave to selflessly throw himself between two beautiful women.

Because of this though, she gets asked to stay home from school for a while so she doesn't get attacked anymore. We then join Paula and her friends at their movie shoot where the cop's kid asks if she talked to Nat, which she admits to doing and she says that she plans to investigate the park herself. First though, she calls Nat on the phone to try and get some info from her. She responds a bit badly and our young horror fan is left with more questions. We then find our way back to Steven who is told he must make a delivery for his dad's store and Nat gets a call from some scared parents looking for their daughter. Cue Paula showing up at the scene of the murders, as she follows the trail of slime and Steven shows up at Nat's place to deliver her groceries. These jumps back and forth, I have to admit, are a bit annoying. I'll be glad when the group eventually starts working together.

Otherwise known as "the other two talk a lot and Paula gets shit done".

Anyway, they awkwardly flirt and we get back to Paula, who finds the trail leads to the bridge to a storage area underneath it. Some cops show up and shoo our young heroine away though, even breaking her bike, so she leaves to further look for answers. The cops end up getting killed too though while Paula is away, because they're not taking things seriously enough. She stakes out the place later on, catching the maniacs on film as one slips and melts its hand in a puddle of water, but she gets seen and now Paula is on their kill list. Meanwhile, Steven ends up having to face the reality of the things too, as he and his new lady love are chased on a train by some. The entire trio finally comes together and Paula tells them about how she dispatched of one of the maniacs in her room using water. They decide to arm the entire audience at the Battle of the Bands with water guns, as they figure the maniacs will be coming there for not only Natalie but for all of the kids. They do show up, killing the one competent cop, and...wait...is that Andrew Divoff? Yeah, the maniac known as Doc is actually horror icon Andrew Divoff in his very first film role. How about that?

"I get around."

Anyway, people panic like crazy and run about rather than using their water guns, but I didn't really expect anyone to believe they'd be useful once people started dying. Luckily, Paula gets the fire hose and starts fighting off the baddies all on her own. Leave it to the youngest cast member to be the only one who actually does anything. Natalie just freaks out as Steven rescues her, and they share their story with the cops afterward, including where the creatures can be found. The cops go to the bridge and open the storage area to find....nothing but an old van. So, no one believes them now and they're sent off. The chief stays there though, exploring the storage area until the van is opened and he gets killed. We then see our three heroes driving away, saying that the rain won't last forever, as the film ends and the threat of the Neon Maniacs still looms.

Including the silly little one that looks like a puppet.
Getting down to the movie as a whole, was it good? Well, I really liked it. It had interesting creature designs (which is impressive given the number of them), an interesting premise, a weakness that doesn't feel like too many other horror monster weaknesses out there (unless you count the shitty aliens from Signs), and I actually like the open-ended finish because it leaves you wanting more. But, as with most things, there are weak spots. Natalie feels like a generic horror movie character from the 80s, right down to her being a blonde virgin, and doesn't really feel capable throughout the film. I know it's the 1980s, but come on, can't we have a strong female lead like Alice (Friday the 13th) or Nancy (A Nightmare on Elm Street)? Oh wait, we actually did have a strong female, didn't we?

She even comes with a direct reference to the baddest lady in horror, Ellen Ripley.
Yeah, that's my biggest gripe with the movie, honestly. It had a perfect lead in Paula but it kept wasting time on Natalie, because she's a desirable blonde teenage virgin. Weak sauce, filmmakers. The only other complaint I have is that the cops are so damn inept in this movie that I am shocked the streets are full of rioters looting constantly. We got one semi-competent police officer and he ended up getting offed by Andrew Divoff and a one-eyed puppet. Pitiful. Overall, this movie deserves more acclaim than it gets, as it is a very enjoyable horror film that just oozes that 1980s charm. Just pretend Paula is the real lead and you'll love it. So, until Mel Gibson faces off against the Neon Maniacs with a Super Soaker (after M. Night Shyamalan gets horribly mutilated), I'll be here being glad I live in a state surrounded nearly entirely by water. Later days, bleeders.

And seriously, stay off the subway at night.

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