The Popcornomicon

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Neon Maniacs (1986)

Neon Maniacs (1986)

Back of the box...

“‘Slash.’ ‘Mohawk.’ ‘Hangman.’ ‘Thing.’ ‘Samurai.’ They’re the Neon Maniacs—an unstoppable, hideous incarnation of evil zombies terrorizing the residents of San Francisco. ‘Neon,’ because they can only be seen in the dark; ‘Maniacs,’ because they kill at will!
Living deep inside the Golden Gate Bridge, Neon Maniacs take to the streets under the veil of darkness. The unsuspecting are easy prey—children, couples, the elderly—all victimized by these murderous maniacs.
One quiet evening in a dark, desolate park, the Maniacs stalk a bunch of teens, killing all but one girl, Natalie. With all evidence of the gruesome incident mysteriously missing, Natalie’s story holds little weight with the authorities. But the maniacal carnage continues, and Natalie begins her own investigation. Finally, she discovers what stops the crazed killers—water! She single-handedly lures them in for the kill...but will the Neon Maniacs get to her first?
Neon Maniacs - just add water for edge-of-your-seat suspense and terror!”

Director: Joseph Mangine
Starring: Clyde Hayes, Leilani Sarelle, Donna Locke

Watch the Trailer

According to the films tagline, there are 12 Neon Maniacs—12 distinct monsters with different names, appearances, weapons, and killing styles. Are we the only ones who think this might be a little too much? People criticise superhero movies when they cram in a third villain, but Neon Maniacs goes for 12! How do you even go about identifying these monsters? Unless you happened to see the trailer that names a few of them, you’d be completely in the dark. Should the audience be forced to sit with their finger on the pause button and the other hand scrolling through the credits on IMDB as they try to identify the monsters like some sad, OCD nerd scavenger hunt? Well, that’s what we did and, at first, we still got it wrong. Incase anyone else is struggling with this, we will do our best to explain. The first bit of confusion comes from the fact that there are 13 Maniacs listed in the credits, so we’ll start by identifying them.

The 13 Neon Maniacs (Yes, there are trading cards):

ARCHER:

 ARCHER

HANGMAN:

 HANGMAN

SLASHER:

SAMURAI:

AXE:

JUICE:

Screenshot 2017-04-10 at 6.15.01 PM.png

APE:

DOC:

PUNK BIKER:

MOHAWK:

SOLDIER:

SCAVENGERS:

DECAPITATOR:

You may have noticed the last two didn’t get trading cards and one of them is near impossible to see. Well, they were the source of our confusion. Decapitator—with the exception of that awful shot of him in the shadows—is not visible in the film at all but is considered to be the 12th Maniac. The Scavenger you see above is one of at least two little monsters that we don’t believe qualify as actual Maniacs. Our theory, after seeing two different Scavengers drag away discarded bodies, is that they are just that, “scavengers” who follow closely behind the maniacs, stealing the remains of their victims and essentially cleaning up after them. They’re like little Ramora fish cleaning up after the big sharks they’re catching a ride on. This would also explain why there is no evidence left behind after the Maniacs attack.

Now that we’ve gotten all that cleared up, here’s the story: it’s Natalie’s birthday and to celebrate she’s sitting in the back of a van while her awful friends make-out and play football in the park. Shortly after being called out for being a virgin, Natalie watches as the Neon Maniacs show up to punish her slutty buds, killing them all while leaving her cowering in the van. After being found by the cops, Natalie is taken to the station where her recounting of the trauma is treated like a joke. The suitably incompetent B-Movie police force wait until the following day, after a rainstorm has washed away all of the evidence, to bother investigating the scene of the crime. Also, it doesn’t occur to them to assign a surveillance team to watch Natalie—the sole survivor and only suspect/witness in the disappearance of six teenagers—until a few days later. By this time, the Maniacs are stalking Natalie and have already made several attempts at her life.

Contrary to what the back of the box leads you to believe, it’s actually Paula, a little girl and aspiring horror filmmaker, who investigates the Maniacs and learns their weakness. After a friend tips her off about the monster sighting she attempts to get video evidence for proof. Natalie is far too self involved in her new relationship with rock band front man, Steven, to do much of anything about the mysterious monsters watching as she lounges around the pool. Seriously, Natalie sees all of her friends die and then goes home and goes swimming?? And Steven isn’t much better; he waited until Natalie was the center of a murder case and being stalked by monsters to ask her out. That’s definitely some drama we might wait to die down a bit. Really Steven, you couldn’t hold out a week or two more? Good thing Paula’s on the case.

While set in San Francisco, Neon Maniacs has that Full House kind of feel where they grabbed a few establishing shots in the city to trick us and then filmed the rest in L.A.. With the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge, an appearance by the K train, what looks like a Muni bus, and a Winchell’s Donuts (which were kind of everywhere at the time), we think it’s safe to assume that everything else was shot in L.A.. Speaking of Full House, the movie’s score has the sound of a sappy sitcom generated from presets on an old Casio keyboard. Somewhere nearby, you just know that Danny Tanner is down on one knee having a tender, heart-to-heart moment with Michelle, to which she’ll reply “you got it, dude” and we’ll blow our fuckin’ brains out.

We may take a few jabs at Neon Maniacs, but it’s all out of love (cue the heartwarming music). Ya know, Michelle, sometimes you can make fun of something and still really appreciate it for what it is, warts and all. Neon Maniacs is by no means a great movie but we love it for what it is; a campy high school horror movie from the magical decade that did ‘em the best. It’s got over-the-top monsters, practical gore effects, and more great 80’s cliches than you can count. Well, Michelle, it looks like it’s your bedtime. Natalie here is gonna spend the night in your room to lure in murderous inhuman monsters. We’ll be at the battle of the bands concert, crossing our fingers that you’ll be dead when we get home.

Watch the Full Movie

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