Monday, November 16, 2009

Neon Maniacs (Joseph Mangine, 1986)

When the members of Whodini rapped: "The freaks come out at night. (The freaks comes out.) The freaks come out at night!" way back in the day, I always thought their funky declaration to be an unfair vilification of the much maligned increment of time. Sure, most freaks do prefer to come out when it's dark outside (the night air is much more forgiving when it comes to aggravating their contusions), but all they want to do is party and have fun – you know, just like everybody else does. Well, any progress the freak community might have made after that bubbly jam first hit the airwaves is instantly dashed with Neon Maniacs (a.k.a. Evil Dead Warriors), a bizarre and slightly nonsensical horror film about a throng of mindless killers who live under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. Lurching out of their cavernous hideout the second the sun goes down, the act of slaughtering humans in the dark has been turned into an almost blase enterprise. Gingerly going about their bloodthirsty business with a quiet efficiency, they murder for no particular reason. Though, I should say, there was a moment near the end when I thought they wear harvesting the organs of the people they kill. But it turns out that's just the way the Maniac dressed like a doctor (a pre-Djinn Andrew Divoff) likes to dispatch his victims; he removes their organs after rendering them unconscious.

It was this deficiency when it came to explaining things that kept my head spinning throughout this mildly obscure oddity. Of course, I wasn't thinking too hard about the motivation of the Maniacs. (Contemplating the fact that their main weakness was pretty mundane took up the biggest chunk of my brain energy.) But either way, you have to admire the way director Joseph Mangine (cinematographer for Van Nuys Blvd.) managed to create an off-kilter monster flick out of a loose assemblage of hallucinogenic afterthoughts and ideas pulled out of a goblin's ass.

Unanswered questions be damned, this film features a maniac dressed a samurai struggling to walk through a turnstile (don't worry, a fellow maniac who shoots lightning from his fingers helps him out), and a battle of the bands competition as the setting for its climatic showdown. (The best part of the latter being that a nondescript teen turns out to be the leader of sleek new wave outfit called The Outlaws.)

Boasting a strange ambiance from start to finish, Neon Maniacs is like no film I have ever seen before. Everything from the staging of the murders to the dramatic pacing seemed off somehow. Chalk it up to sheer incompetence or a total lack of inexperience on the part of the filmmakers, but whatever they did, it repeatedly ended up being the correct course of action. For example, the decision to use that sinister sounding synthesizer flourish whenever the Maniacs would appear on-screen was the epitome of correctness.

The opening massacre sequence sets the kooky tone of the film early on, as a bunch of snotty teens drunkenly carrying on in a park find themselves inexplicably under attack by an organized group of monsters, freaks and unaffiliated weirdos wielding swords, crossbows and rope (yeah, rope). Since I detested the teens the moment I laid eyes on them (the sight of their de facto leader yelling a derogatory comment toward a group of punks from the relative safety of his moving van rubbed me the wrong way), I didn't feel that bad about their gruesome dismissal.

A teen who survives the park slaughter, the blandly likable Natalie (Leilani Sarelle), Steve (Clyde Hayes), a male classmate who has a thing for Natalie, and a horror aficionado named Paula (Donna Locke) team up to fight the incomprehensible menace. Actually, the younger Paula seems to be the only one genuinely interested in defeating the angry scourge at first.

The fragile Natalie appears indifferent to the mass murder of her peers (the sight of her sunbathing by her pool the next day is what gave me that impression) and Steve's main focus is clearly poontang-related. However, after Natalie and Steve are almost killed by the First Nations, Simian and Samurai maniacs while down in the subway, the two seem more willing to listen to the monster-obsessed ravings of Paula.

Oh, the fact that the Maniacs still want to kill Natalie is the probably closest thing to a conventional plot in this film. You see, the maniacs failed murder Natalie in the park, and spend the rest of the film trying to rectify this mistake. It's not much, but it's something latch on to.

Note to self: If the Neon Maniacs' first attempt to kill you is unsuccessful, don't be surprised when they try again the following night. In other words: Always be prepared.

The liberal use of iridescent slime throughout the film was greatly appreciated, as it is common knowledge that I love iridescent slime. Apparently, it's what the Maniacs bleed when they get cut. Anyway, at first it's just seen languishing in little pools on the ground (the police call it "guck"). But later on it can be seen spraying uncontrollably from the Maniacs when Natalie, Steve and Paula acquire the proper means to kill them.

The constant shots of Donna Locke sitting cross-legged in vampire makeup reminded me of the scene in Starstruck where Jo Kennedy performs "Temper Temper." How you say? Well, the way camera kept showing Ross O'Donovan beaming with pride in the front row was eerily similar to the manner in which Miss Locke beamed while Clyde Hayes (credited here as Alan Hayes) performed his musical number at the battle of the bands competition being held in their school's gym.

And finally, I must say I was quite impressed by Steve's use of the word "environment" when attempting to justify his decision to use public transit on his date with Natalie. Mostly because I didn't know the environment existed back in the mid-80s. In fact, I didn't hear the word uttered once during the 1980s. Yeah, I realize there were trees, plankton and narwhals back then, but I had no idea there were actual people who were calling it the "environment."

video uploaded by EGeeklyFan


  1. Wow. Wow wow wow. Thanks for introducing me to this movie. How have I never heard of this? I feel ashamed.

    And I totally agree with you about being impressed that someone said "environment" in 1986. I just watched "Student Bodies" and when the whole ending revolved around swine flu, I felt caught in some strange kind of time warp from which I'm still feeling disoriented.

  2. I've never even heard of this movie. You definitely always do some interesting posts.

  3. Billy: Wow, that's a lot of wows. ;)

    I recall that Malvert sometimes pees red, but I don't remember there being a swine flu breakout. Weird. (It's been awhile since I saw Student Bodies.)

    Keith: Thanks, buddy.

  4. You know that YouTube no longer keeps track of how many videos you've watched. :( I was closing in on 10,000!

  5. I did not know that. *mild sniff*

    The last time I checked my videos viewed tally it was hovering around 25,000. (Yikes. Now that I think about it, I'm kinda glad they took away that account stat.)

  6. I've always felt a little guilty about liking this movie. Glad I'm not alone, and it has a DVD release.

  7. I don't usually feel guilty for liking certain pieces of filmed entertainment. But if I were, Neon Maniacs would definitely be at the top of the list.

  8. Any of u know where i can make the movie download!! this the best movie ever maded

  9. Yes, watching this movie right now, and it brings back memories of how silly the 80s horror could get. Now why in the heck would demonic creatures would could be easily killed by water live in San Francisco? Someone didn't think this through very well- either the producers or the demonic creatures.

  10. Yum-Yum, I love you and your site so much. Thank you for existing. Now, Neon Maniacs... Wow. I love everything about it; the Maniacs all having their own jumbo sized trading cards, the chill digital synth soundtrack, the battle of the bands, the total lack of explanation as to any discernible point, the fact that Donna Locke is easily twenty five playing 14 - but with a believably fourteen year old's physique, the Cro-Maniac's awesome walk, that one maniac with the giant sword hands that didn't do anything - I could go on. Just a wonderful, 80's fortified, piece of cinematic trash.

    Not surprisingly, it was a bit of a scam according to Assistant At Director Nat Bocking - bounced checks, non-payment, dropped production - you can taste the frustration on the screen!

  11. Thanks for the love and thanks for reminding me that Neon Maniacs exists. :)