There are twelve new reasons to be afraid of the dark... and every one of them is a killer.
Year of Release: 1986
Also Known As: Evil Dead Warriors
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Joseph Mangine
Clyde Hayes ... Steven
Leilani Sarelle ... Natalie
Donna Locke ... Paula
Victor Brandt ... Devin
Joseph Shirley ... Ape
Barry Buchanan ... Archer
Scott McKenna ... Archer
Douglas Markell ... Axe
James H. Smith ... Axe
Mark Twogood ... Decapitator
Andrew Divoff ... Doc
Robert E. Veilliux ... Hangman / Juice
Scott Guetzkow ... Juice
Chuck Cohen ... Mohawk
Zac Baldwin ... Punk Biker
Solly Marx ... Punk Biker / Samurai
Doyle McCurley ... Samurai
Mario Valdez ... Samurai
Jerome L. Dennae ... Scavenger
Kathy Hooker ... Scavenger
Chuck Secor ... Scavenger
Daniel Burrell ... Slasher
Joel-Steven Hammond ... Slasher
Allan Aperlo ... Soldier
In the heart of San Francisco, the legions of the damned lay waiting beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. As night falls, this battalion of butchery is unleashed upon the city to carve terror into the souls of the innocent. But when one woman named Natalie escapes a bloody teen slaughter, she can't convince anyone that a rampaging army of psychotic 'monsters' has mutilated her friends. Now haunted, hunted, and having a hard time in high school, Natalie must arm herself and her classmates for one final bizarre battle against the horror of the Neon Maniacs!
Neon Maniacs, the movie that finally has the guts to ask the question; if your girlfriend gets decapitated mid blowjob, does it make you a necrophiliac? Course, if she's a deepthroater an you're packin' a fire hose around it makes you ask the question "where's the nearest suicide booth?" But gettin' back to that first question, I say no, because all those guys in reverse KKK robes who used to run the guillotine durin' the French Revolution'd tell stories about how the severed head'd sometimes give 'em the stink eye after bein' separated from its body, which proves to me that they were at least alive long enough to ensure they'd haunt the executioner's dreams for the next 17 years. Some scientists disagree, so you guys can feel free to decide for yourselves; but really, if these scientists'd ever waived their exposed fannies at a decapitated rattler they'd prolly understand these things a little better.
An speakin' of things you can chew on but prolly shouldn't, I got outta workin' off my remainin' 15 hours of indentured servitude to Skunky Hernandez this week cause he's up at the big fertilizer expo in Swallagoob, Montana, so Billy Hilliard, Cleave Furguson an I piled into Cleave's crummy an headed out to hunt mushrooms. I've had my eye on one of those DVD players I been hearin' about that you don't hafta adjust the trackin' on to get your movie to play right, an figured I might be able to pick enough calf brains to sell to Saul an Blaine Schwartzberg to cover the cost. Those things sell faster'n beaver tail fillets over at The Rural Mural, so even though Saul's still pretty P.O.'d about Shankles eatin' those fancy colored carp he's got in his garden pond, he's a business man first an foremost. So anyway, we found a nice shady hillside just loaded with the suckers an filled up about five buckets by noon, before stoppin' for lunch. Only once we'd bitten into our meat loaftovers from breakfast, the crummy started saggin' down about two feet in the rear end, an when we all turned around there was this big ole mama bear with 'er head buried neck deep in our profits. So we all jump outta the cab an start yellin' at 'er an threatenin' to turn 'er into a Cabela's welcome mat, but somewhere along the line she'd just plum run outta shits to give, which is prolly why she was devourin' our mushrooms like a hippy with deep-fried brain batter. Eventually, Billy ended up jumpin' into the truck bed an whackin' 'er on the hind end with a tire iron, which did finally get 'er attention, although not quite in the way we'd intended, an the short version is that we pretty much got trapped inside the crummy for the better part of an hour while she blew rage snot all over the rear window like an elephant with a pollen allergy. I'd seen Cujo enough times to know where this was goin', so I had Cleave back the crummy up til it was about five feet from this big Tamarack that was leanin' across the road, an had 'im wait for the next time that she reared up an started playin' the xylophone solo from Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on the roof. Cleave saw where I was goin' with this, an the moment the workin' day was done an 'er head was properly elevated, Cleave popped it into reverse an mashed the gas pedal like a ground squirrel crossin' the highway an knocked 'er out colder'n a Swanson TV dinner. Course, we hadn't thought our plan all the way through, an there was no way that even Billy was deadliftin' 'er outta there, so we hadda drive all the way back to town with 'er hind end hangin' offa the tailgate. She ended up eatin' pretty much all of our mushrooms, but that skull crackin' knocked 'er goofy enough that she thinks she's people now, so we sold 'er to Saul an Blaine who're lettin' 'er roam around the restaurant to help create atmosphere. Suffice to say, I am now the proud owner of a genuine Sanyo DWM-270 DVD player... now if I can just figure out what the heck these colored cables're for.
But anyhow, for those of you who've ever wondered how Nightbreed would've turned out without the help of Clive Barker, a script, or a budget, Neon Maniacs came along five years prior to help answer that question. But I still say Joe Mangine aughta sue M. Night Shyamalan for that whole "death by water" thing. Course, I guess the guys who did the Wizard of Oz'd prolly object to that reasonin', but they're long dead so the heck with 'em. I'd also like to point out that the climax of Gremlins 2 is pretty damn similar to the endin' of Neon Maniacs, so let's not go gettin' too down on this thing just yet, cause if it can teach Joe Dante how to end a movie, it's bound to have a few kernels of wisdom left for the rest of us. Like these, for instance. First, if you're gonna get mad at the cops for not believin' your story about monsters shish-kabobin' your friends, maybe don't discard the severed monster arm that could help break the case. Second, if you're the kinda police chief who calls up your officers in the middle of the night just to have an exposition scene, don't expect 'em to have your back the next time you get slapped with a brutality suit. An third, when water can melt your flesh like a waffle cone in a pottery kiln, you'd damn well better trust your meteorologist.
But what really got my attention about this one is how in San Francisco, even the monsters drink wine spritzers an hang out in the Castro District all night. I mean, what's with the lack of girly glopola ghouls? This malformed mob's a sausage fest an I wanna know why. How come all four of the women who've watched this movie get the Gnarly Davidson leather bar monsters with jeans so tight you can read the dates on the coins in their pockets, but there ain't no barbaric bimbo beasts in miniskirts who look like they're ready for some pelvic monster mashin'? I hope the director's real proud of 'imself, cause it's movies like this one that gave rise to the feminist movement. Just have a look at Hellraiser for instance, they've got a female Cenobite. Or how about Nightbreed, we got female representation over in Midian? You're damn skippy we do. Now is it any wonder why those two are immensely popular an Neon Maniacs went down the ole toilet like a poorly digested Sloppy Joe? I think not. Seems to me that the solution here is clear: equal gender representation in monster flicks. I tell ya, when you can get the feminists an the fundies on the same page about *anything* you've got a serious problem. Cause the fundies've been screamin' for years about how everything in these movies turns people into slobberin' sinners. An when you get too many creature features without sufficient monster mammaries, the next thing you know you're watchin' Interview with the Vampire, checkin' out Antonio Banderas an thinkin' to yourself that maybe if it was real dark, an there was some soft music on, that you might go down for The Count. Once that happens you're done for. I'm pretty sure that's what happened to Richard Fawner, cause one day he was spittin' Skoal dribblins into a sawdust pile at Stumpy's Lumber Mill an Rendering Plant, an the next he's wearin' costume jewelry an chewin' with his mouth closed. So in the future, if you aspirin' "filmmakers" out there would please remember to include a few knobgoblins an teatacle beasts in these things, our mothers'd appreciate you not turnin' us into a buncha monsters in the closet. Not that I've got anything against closeted monsters, I just think they aughta get the heck outta there so it won't be so hard for their roommates to locate their formal dress shoes.
The movie begins with some guy down below the Golden Gate Bridge tryin' to haul in some rainbow trout with his fish net stalkins, til it starts gettin' dark an he hasta head for home so he won't miss Cagney & Lacey. Cept before he gets there he passes by this iron doorway an spots a cattle skull that's fulla Nightbreed tradin' cards, an while he's inspectin' 'em for that rare misprinted Peloquin rookie card somethin' opens up the door an Lizzie Bordens 'im right in the coconut. Elsewhere, these teenagers who can all buy beer without bein' carded cause they look like they're 28're drivin' over to the park so they can pair off an make the most of their abstinence-only sex education class. Unfortunately, about that time all these weirdos in wadin' boots who look like wax sculptures of Tor Johnson that got left out in the sun're sneakin' around the park, while the only two characters who aren't riskin' death by drownin' in their dates' bodily fluids're establishin' that Natalie is a stick in the mud virgin. This is important, cause it verifies that she's not only our main character, but that there's no reason to worry about 'er once the creepozoids show up an start doin' the Monster Mash. But first, let's run down the monster roll call so we don't end up more confused than Caitlin Upton at a Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture. Here's what we've got: D.I. Joe (moldy Ferengi in a battle helmet), the Coccyx Avenger (kinda looks like Toxie, but looks even more like John Goodman's butt cheeks), Neander Paul (imagine Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk, only he can't lower his arms like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story), The Abominable Slowman (the Rankin Bass Yeti in a loin cloth, walks real slow cause it's givin' 'im a testicular rash), Fangus Khan (samurai with katanas, constructed primarily of bacon), Chief Slitting Bull (dresses like Tonto from The Lone Ranger, wears a dreamcatcher on the side of his head, an lives for the tomahawk chop), Gnarly Davidson (leather bar zombie with a face like stale blue cheese), Joseph Mangla (clad in hospital garb, terrible bedside manner), Hanging C.H.U.D. (Pasta-Roni face, the noose is loose), and Crocodile Bundy (kills like Ted, but has a gator's head). So anyway, it ain't long before the goo crew starts turnin' everybody into one big pan of corned beef gash includin' some disarmament with katana blades, crossbownage, a hung Jerry, an the most militant cock-blockin' in the history of cinema when this guy's date loses 'er head while he's gettin' serviced.
This leaves only Natalie, who's trapped inside the Mystery Machine as the Slew Klux Klan begins to advance on 'er an beat the tar out of 'er ride til it looks like some Baltimore protestors got ahold of it, only about that time Raiden gets P.O.'d an the sky starts lightin' up like Cypress Hill on a Colorado tour stop an all the drool ghouls start headin' for dryer ground. Then the cops show up an haul 'er over to the station to get 'er statement, only they've had way too many Keystones so they don't take anything she's sayin' seriously an she hasta sit there listenin' 'em laugh like the Tea Party faithful at a Jerry Springer tapin'. It's not until the hysterics die down an all the cops're drenched with hilarity urine that she's finally allowed to go home, where she tries swimmin' 'er grief away in 'er backyard pool an only narrowly avoids gettin' Nepalverized by the Abominable Slowman, who panics an splits when some of his Sascrotch mattin' nearly gets splashed by Natalie's cannonball water. Then she falls asleep in an inner tube an dreams it's rainin' blood an that she's been out for so long that 'er biceps've atrophied to the point that she can't pull 'erself outta the pool. The next day, the cops start hittin' the park like an unarmed Occupy Wall Street protestor til they come across this nuclear Mountain Dew layin' all over the like a glow stick factory exploded, an everybody stands around lookin' at it like the apes startin' at the monolith in 2001. Meanwhile, this girl (Paula) whose room looks like a shrine to Tom Savini, hears about the Monster Jam from 'er Ron Howard-lookin' buddy an tries to interrogate Natalie at school, til she gets brushed off like a dandruff flake. Then one of the dead kids' sisters starts initiatin' a cafeteria brawl with Natalie, til this dork (Steven) who's got a bulgin' boxer burrito for 'er hasta rescue 'er from the attack of the bad '80s perm. Unfortunately, Natalie's school's got one of those "zero tolerance" deals where they're too chickenshit to assign blame cause they don't wanna get sued by the denial-ridden parents of some future fry bin jockey, so she gets sent home for the next week to try to think of ways to not get assaulted in the future. While that's goin' on, Paula an 'er friends're finishin' up a movie they're shootin' for Troma, an once they're able to wrap up filmin' she heads home to try gettin' the low down on the creatures from Natalie, but she just hangs up on 'er like a drunk dialin' ex-boyfriend.
Then some of the dead kids' parents call 'er up an chew 'er ass for havin' the audacity to survive the massacre an give 'er sad face, til Steven shows up to deliver 'er groceries an check out 'er produce. She thanks 'im for keepin' the P.O.'d bimbo in the cafeteria from killin' 'er with a lunch try, an tells 'im it all keeps addin' up an that she thinks she's crackin' up, but he says he believers 'er an asks 'er to go to the movies with 'im. Which is exactly what you should do when you believe that someone thinks monsters're after 'em. Elsewhere, the undeterred Paula's over at the park checkin' out the Hi-C Ecto Cooler spill an followin' the yellow drip road down to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge til she comes to that familiar steel door, only about that time the cops show up an run 'er off before she can solve the case an put 'em out of a job. Later that night, the cops're still millin' around at the gates of Bridgian, when a noose comes down outta nowhere an strangles this hapless cop like David Carradine durin' private time. Somehow, this triggers Paula's whitey senses an she heads down to the bridge where she steadies 'er camera on the door an videos all the malleable mush monsters headin' out for their graveyard shifts at Denny's; 'cept they don't get very far cause about that time the acid rain starts again an everybody hasta head back inside for their umbrellas. Then Paula goes home to have a look at 'er dailies, but unfortunately the video turns out darker'n the 1000 years of doom Chuck Norris forecasted when Obama got reelected. Fastest case of vinegar syndrome I've ever seen, what a bummer. Meanwhile, the monsters're all down in the subway jumpin' over the turnstyles like Michael Beck in The Warriors while in pursuit of Natalie an Steven, an once both groups get on the train, the mutant wearin' the S&M gimp suit swivels the conductor's head around like a barn owl an welcomes everybody aboard the troooooooooooooooooooll train. I'm sorry, I promise not to do that again. So anyway, then Fangus Khan, The Abominable Slowman, an Chief Slittin' Bull corner 'em in one of the passenger cars an're just about to stamp their tickets, when they pull into a station an the train automatically brakes, tossin' the mutants around like drunken sorority girls at a frat house an allowin' Natalie an Steven to bail off the train an onto a bus. The best thing about this is that if you've seen Natalie's house, you just know she's dyin' of embarrassment after bein' seen on two separate forms of public transportation.
But then the Chief grabs ahold of Steven through the window an tries scalpin' 'im, only that proves real difficult cause he's got approximately 36lbs of hair gel in there an Natalie hasta slam the window shut an pinch the Chief's arm off. Elsewhere, The Coccyx Avenger's snuck into Paula's house to try rippin' off 'er Lloyd Kaufman autographed Class of Nuke 'Em High poster, cept she knows their secret weakness an hurls 'er bedpan on 'im, an that grosses 'im out so bad he hasta stumble into the tub, where she cranks the faucet up to the Zestfully Clean setting an turns 'im into a patty melt. The next mornin', Paula tries one last time to talk to Natalie by pretendin' to be the newspaper boy collectin' subscription fees, an once inside she tells 'er that water kills the boogers quicker'n it kills the fun in a platforming Nintendo game. So Steven figures all he's gotta do is arm everybody at the big battle of the high school bands with Super Soakers an this'll keep everybody safe. Even though you'd think a high school dance'd already have enough barrel shaped objects expellin' various fluids. Later that night, the big dance gets underway, an Steven goes up on stage with his band to play their new hit single "Disgrace to the Pace" for the next five minutes an... let's just say that if they weren't already, these monsters are now fully justified in their mission to tear this guy's head off to use for free throw practice. Then the next band goes on an plays a second song, in its entirety, while the avenging monsters're gettin' hassled for not havin' hall passes an Joseph Mangla gets so mad that he hasta tear out the security guard's heart just to relieve some of the stress of the hair band fu that's waftin' up from the gym. So finally the monsters make their way to the dance an start workin' their way through the crowd, arguin' every step of the way over who gets to be the one to make this the day the music died, only these horny girls drinkin' the spiked punch won't quit sexually harassin' 'em before Paula spots 'em an warns Steven while he's up on stage doin' a tribute to Barry Manilow. But before Steven can warn everybody, D.I. Joe kicks the door in an starts firin' his submachine gun into the crowd like Sly Stallone in Death Race 2000 an pretty quick everybody starts stompin' each other to death tryin' to get out like they're at a Who concert. Think I'm gonna cut it off here cause, bless their hearts, they sure did mean well with this effort an it'd be real rude to steal their thunder without suckerin' at least a few people into buyin' a copy.
Alrighty, well, the "so bad it's good" distinction is strong with this one. We've got serious lapses in reasoning throughout much of the flick, sub-par acting, not one, but TWO complete musical performances (always the kiss of death), and dialog of a sort seldom heard without first being translated from a foreign language. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you, I just met you.", says Steven, to which Natalie responds "I know, that's why I like you." This, naturally, is right before they start rootin' around on the floor of the biology lab while monsters're roamin' the school hallways adding to their stump collection. In its own way, it's perfect. If you haven't got ineptitude this powerful, the movie ends up pretty forgettable and considered little more than poor. Try causing this level of cinematic catastrophe on purpose and it's worse still. Neon Maniacs falls into what we in the business call "the Goldilocks Zone." The goreage is neither too hot, nor too cold, which ensures the movie is memorable, even if not for the reasons the crew had originally hoped. That said, we've got some decent raw material here in the plot, which may or may not have been later recycled into other flicks that could better utilize these ideas. Hard to say if Clive Barker ever saw Neon Maniacs before he wrote Cabal, and although his band of monsters that only come out at night are miles ahead of anything in Neon Maniacs, it's not impossible that he was influenced by it. Then you've got the whole water being the only means of death for the monsters... kinda sounds like Signs, yeah? And of course, the climactic fire hose scene in the gym of the high school dance isn't really all that dissimilar from the conclusion to Gremlins 2. Importantly, Neon Maniacs predates all three of those movies. So even though it was never particularly well known, it's far from obscure as horror movies go, so who knows, maybe it played a part in influencing the future efforts of more gifted individuals. I think what makes it impossible to take the movie seriously is the writing. The biggest problem with the script is the fact that these monsters have decided to hole up next door to an enormous body of water, when that's what kills them. The human equivalent would be living next door to Ted Nugent, you just don't do that. Then you've got the fact that these monsters seem to have a personal vendetta against Natalie and Paula for little more than witnessing their murder sprees. Which makes sense, because you can't have humans knowing what you're up to. But reasoning goes out the window when they invade the high school dance and are observed by the entire graduating class, so that doesn't make any sense either. It goes without saying that we get absolutely no explanation of what these things are, how they came into existence, or any kind of backstory at all, so basically we've just got a sloppy mess.
Anyway, let's flop this sucker onto the dissection table and see if its heart's sufficiently enlarged to overcome some rather crippling technical problems. The plot, while fun, is pitifully short on explanation and as Spock would say; "most illogical." I can't get over that livin' in the bridge thing, and on the banks of a huge body of water no less. What happens if the river rises one night and their sump pump can't handle the excess water? Whoever finds 'em is gonna be up to their knees in The Stuff. It's not easy for me to say this about a monster movie, but this premise is beyond stupid. The acting is below average, but not completely terrible. The big problem comes from the fact that, despite the main character's friends getting massacred, and the fact that she herself is subsequently trailed by glopola monsters tryin' to gut 'er so they can play jump rope with her intestines, it barely phases her. This problem falls squarely on the writers and director, however, not the cast. All our primary characters get over the deaths of their friends (and their own near deaths) in the span of about half an hour. I dunno, maybe they're just part of the MTV generation and feel neither highs nor lows, but it doesn't exactly help to gain a foothold for the already scant supply of realism your movie has. A lot of the dialog isn't delivered particularly well either, but I'd still heap the majority of the blame on the script. Here's who matters and why: Clyde Hayes: (Friday the 13th Part IV), Leilani Sarelle (Night Claws, The Deliberate Stranger), David Muir (Dr. Hackenstein), Marta Kober (Friday the 13th Part 2, Slumber Party Massacre III, School Spirit), Jeff Tyler (Dune), James Acheson (Invaders from Mars 1986), Jessie Lawrence Ferguson (Darkman, Prince of Darkness, The Supernaturals), John Lafayette (Watchers II, Lords of the Deep, The Terror Within, Fright Night Part 2, Remote Control, Jaws: The Revenge, The Day After), Cooper Neal (Night Warning), Matthew Asner (Night Life), Clarke Coleman (Vampires, Ripper Man, Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again), Barry Buchanan (The Loch Ness Horror), Scott McKenna (Species, Death House), Mark Twogood (Mexican Werewolf in Texas, Camp Fear), Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster 1 & 2, Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation, The Dead Matter, The Rage 2007, Dr. Rage, Dracula 2002, Faust 2000, Xtro III, Oblivion, Graveyard Shift), Solly Marx (Silent Madness). Bizarrely, some of these people did manage at least some semblance of a mainstream presence, and those roles are as follows: Leilani Sarelle would probably be best remembered as Roxy in Basic Instinct, Victor Brandt went into voice acting and has done the voices for Professor Hamilton on the 1996 animated Superman series, and more recently, the voice of General Crozier on Metalocalypse, while P.R. Paul probably puts his portrayal of MacNeil from Fame at the top of his resume.
The special effects, you'd probably have to say tilt toward the bad side. The monsters aren't terrible, and certainly some are better than others (Crocodile Bundy is particularly bad, while D.I. Joe is perhaps the best), but in general they're fairly obvious suits. So besides the main event, you've got a decent broken leg, a subpar torso with head decapitation, a pretty good severed arm, an alright melting body and residual skeleton, a really good still-beating heart, and a positively atrocious torso of one of the monsters spraying green crud all over. So I'm saying below average, but not without some redeeming value. If I have to pick a high point, I guess the special effects would be it. Although that's like saying it's the classiest prostitute. The shooting locations are a bit on the dull side, being that so much of the movie is spent inside Natalie or Paula's houses. But there are some fun scenes that take place on a bus and a subway train, and the area immediately outside the door to the monsters' lair isn't bad either. The area inside the bridge where the monsters actually live was a real missed opportunity, and is probably the worst because it should have been the best one in the movie. Looks like an abandoned auto shop, which is disappointing. The soundtrack, I'd describe as weak. Which isn't to say that it isn't pleasant to listen to, but this is supposed to be a movie about freakola monsters that come out at night to hack people up into petite sirloins, and this weak-kneed silliness just doesn't cut it. Pretty unmemorable too, as it has a very generic quality to it. Kinda like maybe the composer only had a very glib understanding of what the movie was supposed to be about, and was never privy to a detailed summary of the various scenes he'd be composing for. Again, I like the music alright, but the idea behind a soundtrack is to enhance mood and give a little more meaning to the scenes during which they play, and I didn't see it as being particularly effective in that regard. Which is unfortunate given the way the script is written, cause it really needed an atmospheric boost from the soundtrack. Overall, Neon Maniacs is a lot more fun than its popularity would suggest, but owes a great deal of that enjoyability to being a bit of a train wreck. A fun little monster movie that positively reeks of the 80s, which is just how I like 'em, so check it out if you're not the kinda person who eats chili dogs with a knife and fork.