There are some movies out there that just represent a certain decade in a nutshell, especially the '80s. Whenever I thought '80s
movie, I always thought Chopping Mall was a great representation of '80s horror flicks: it had the slasher element, the cheesy effects, the cheesy plot, the gore, the fashions, the hair, everything about that movie screamed '80s. However, I recently came across a title that I somehow knew would best Chopping Mall, and that is the feature review today. I mean, just look at that title. I mean, what's a more perfect title for a 1980s horror movie than...
Neon Maniacs 1986 Review
The movie opens with a narration explaining how when the children of the world grow corrupt the neon maniacs will ravage the earth. We then cut to a man fishing near the Golden Gate Bridge at dusk. He finishes and heads back home, but he stops at a metal door beneath the bridge. He finds various trading cards (?) with what look like maniacal verons of the Garbage Pail Kids, the door opens behind him, and he gets dispatched with an axe. We are then introduced to a group of teens heading out to a park to do what normal teens do in their free time (get laid). However, the neon maniacs (you will see those words in that color for the rest of the review) arrive and kill all of them, save for Natalie (Leilani Sarelle). Her story about the monsters killing all her friends gets out and catches the attention of a young monster-movie loving girl named Paula (Donna Locke) and Steven (Clyde Hayes), another teen who has a crush on her. The three hen try to convince the police that the threat is real, but soon realize they have to take matters into their own hands and face off against the neon maniacs.
Here's a little mile that should give you an idea of how stuck in the '80s this movie is: Neon Maniacs is like a bloated, drowned corpse in a swimming pool filled with everything that made the eighties, well, the eighties. Everything, and I mean everything that was a staple of that decade is in this movie. I went in expecting the bacs of an '80s movie, and as it met all those expectations, I delved deeper into my archive of eighties stereotypes, and it kept on meeting those expectations. I think the expectations that it didn't meet were the legwarmers, boobage, and tons of gore. Other than that, we've got neon lights, George Michaels-type muc, metal, the hair, the fashions, the cheeness, the bad acting, etc., etc. It just goes on and on in a time machine of epic proportions.
Well, enough of my nostalgic ranting and get to the meat of things. First of all, the acting is really bad. It's not hilariously bad; it's just far from good. What's really hilarious is that they got what looks like a very short twenty-something to play the role of what is apparently a twelve-year old girl.The detective leading the investigation was okay, as well as the girl who played Natalie, but as for the rest of the cast...well, the less said the better. The make-up effects on the neon maniacs is actually very good, it's just that they aren't frightening or menacing at all. I mean, when you really get down to it, they're just psychotic verons of the Garbage Pail Kids. Hell, they even have names listed int eh credits, like Archer, Hangman, Juice, Decapitator, etc. They all have a unique way of killing off characters (the titles say it all), as well as some different and cool make-up appliances.
Yet another ridiculous factor is that if the neon maniacs make contact with water, they melt (which is a pretty cool effect). Well, I do have a posble explanation for this: the opening narration explains that when n consumes the children of the world, the neon maniacs would emerge from their "lair." In the opening, they knock off all the teens that were having sex or weren't virgins anymore, leaving Natalie to survive. I think they cannot touch anyone who is pure and innocent, and nce water is one of the most pure substances on earth, whenever they make contact, they melt. They can't take its purity. I'm probably over-thinking this and giving the movie way too much credit (almost no logic can be found in the actual movie).The title doesn't even make any sense, seeing as how these maniacs don't have anything to do with neon. The only reason it's called that is to appeal to capitalize on the popularity of neon at the time. But it's an awesome title, so all can be forgiven.
However, as much as I love the retro feel and the nonsencal nature, I do have a lot of complaints. For one, there is almost no gore. We get a blink-or-you'll-miss-it decapitation in the beginning, and a pretty gory heart removal later on, but other than that, the kills are either completely bloodless or offscreen. I hope that there's some kind of unrated cut out there, and they release it on DVD, because with a lot of blood, this could have been one of my cheesy favorites. My other complaint is that the movie has a really lazy ending. It feels as if they were expecting a Neon Maniacs Part 2 to come along and pick up right where the first left off. Unfortunately, that never happened so we're left with this cliffhanger that never gets solved. The film also drags in some places where nothing much really happens. One fun fact is that the "Doc" maniac is played by Andrew Divoff, who played the title character in the awesome first two Wishmaster movies.
There's a lot of negativity aimed at the glorious cheese-fest that is Neon Maniacs. I will admit that it has its ups and downs (with a lot of downs), but ultimately, any fan of cheesy eighties horror cannot pass it up. Most of the good reviews out there are linked back to that reviewer's childhood, but I enjoyed even though I didn't get the chance to see it when I was younger. It was released on DVD by Anchor Bay that has gone OOP and goes for absurd prices on the internet. I don't get why someone would shell out $40 for a copy, because if you truly want to get the full retro experience, pick it up on VHS. I guarantee that this movie is a 90-minute time capsule exploding with awesomeness. The movie itself sucks, but for reasons I've expressed multiple times, it's certainly worth a purchase on VHS. After all, it's better than gagging yourself with a spoon.
The Verdict: Neon Maniacs isn't that great of a movie by all means, but has enough retro '80s cheeness to heartily recommend.
Dont trust my judgment? Heres four other opinions:
Monsters At Play
Cool Ass Cinema