Sunday, July 15, 2012

Neon Maniacs (1986)

San Francisco during the 80s of the last century. Virginal high school girl Natalie (Leilani Sarelle) is the only survivor when a group of monsters, mutants or whatever they are supposed to be we must assume to be the "neon maniacs" of the film's title attack her nightly birthday night bash in Golden Gate Park. Since the bodies of her friends disappear - something the police only make sure of by an actual search the next morning - the cops don't believe a single word Natalie said about being attacked by monsters; clearly, it's all a high school prank. A prank that makes Natalie pretty unpopular with the relatives of her friends.

As if social ostracism weren't bad enough, the neon maniacs have developed a liking to Natalie, and begin to terrorize and try to kill her wherever she goes at night. Fortunately for her, Steve (Clyde Hayes), a guy who always had a crush on her, and horror loving kid Paula (Donna Locke), learn to believe in the neon maniacs too, and help her out. Eventually, Paula realizes that the monsters live inside the Golden Gate Bridge (one assumes the only feature of San Francisco writer Mark Patrick Carducci had heard of, seeing as he even misses out on including a cable car or a drag queen) and are lethally allergic to water. But will squirt guns be enough when the creatures attack our heroes' school's battle of the (horrible) bands?

I suspect that if you could distil the 80s teen horror movie to its purest form, Joseph Mangine's Neon Maniacs would be the result of your experiment. It's all teens (and "teens") in horrifying fashion, synth noodling on the soundtrack, light gore, dumb yet somewhat fun monsters and a plot that doesn't hold up even to the idea of logical scrutiny. It's also a fun enough film if you're in the mood for a horror movie that's as disposable as junk food.

Of course, the main reason to talk about a film like this is to wallow in its moments of perfect ridiculousness. Personally, I find it difficult not to be fond of a work that does make no attempt whatsoever to explain the existence of its monsters or give them any kind of motivation. Instead of that intellectual stuff Neon Maniacs puts the only bit of thought it is capable of into turning the (possibly) titular monsters into some sort of monster village people: one of them is dressed like a biker, another one like a surgeon; there are a soldier, an Indian and a monkey guy, too, of course, as well as a totally incongruous wee cyclops lizard thing. Other highlights include a police force so bad they don't even know that if you search a room full of vehicles, you need to search the inside of the vehicles themselves before you can declare the room monster free; let's not even talk about the whole "oh, somebody says half a dozen people have been murdered in the park, let's search it some time next morning after some useful rain will have washed away all clues except for some slime" business.

Then there's a trio of heroes who think it's a good idea to go to a battle of the bands while they are being hunted by monsters, as long as they provide as many people as possible with squirt guns, becoming responsible for the death of at least a dozen people in the process. Oops.

However, one thing about Neon Maniacs at least is utterly logical: the film's conviction that a horror movie loving kid is the most effective monster destroying force in the known universe. That this particular horror movie loving kid is a girl is worthy of a certain amount of praise, and comes as a bit of a surprise in a film as addle-brained as this one.



Todd said...

I love that even for the trailer for this movie the YouTube comments degenerate into an argument over which commenter is stupider. Shouldn't the fact that we've all sought out the trailer for Neon Maniacs happily unite us in our idiocy? Anyway, um, I need to see this movie.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Ah, but some of us sought that trailer out ironically (even if we perhaps don't know how to spell that word), and are therefore superior.

You really should see it; perhaps your knowledge of San Francisco can explain why there are monsters living inside the Golden Gate Bridge.

Todd said...

Actually, living in San Francisco, I understand completely why such a circumstance needs no explanation!

Checking IMDB (yes, you got me a wee bit obsessed) I see that the film's primary locations were in Glendale, California and Griffith Park -- both quite a ways from SF. The subway they're on in the trailer, though, does look a lot like one of our MUNI trains -- which I imagine contributed to the scene, in addition to the fact that they were being attacked by monsters, the added suspense of whether they would reach their destination without breaking down several times.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Ha, I knew it!