In 80’s horror films we were dealing with a lot of characters that one could describe as “maniacs.” You know, like the machete wielding, hockey mask-wearing variety. Or maybe you prefer the type that possesses a children’s toy and goes on a murderous rampage, or some like the type that wear masks made of human skin and dance around with a chainsaw. But our film today introduces us to a whole other breed of maniac. Can you handle the madness of 1986’s Neon Maniacs?
Our story begins with a bunch of teenagers heading out for the night to have a good time. Specifically, they are going to celebrate the birthday of their friend Natalie (Leilani Sarelle). Apparently the ultimate way to celebrate a teenage girl’s birthday in 1986 San Francisco was to go hang out in the park in the dead of night. The various couples start pairing off when all of a sudden they are murdered, one by one, by a bunch of strange mutant creatures who have emerged from under the Golden Gate Bridge. Each one of these creatures has their own theme going on. One is a Samurai, one is an archer, one is a biker, one is an indian, and one even looks a bit like a lizard. They’re kind of like the Village People. Of course, the only person to survive the attack is Natalie.
Natalie goes to the cops, but nobody believes her…after all, no bodies were found. The only thing the police find in the park is some strange puddles of green goo. Nobody at school believes Natalie either, she even gets suspended so as not to upset the other students. However, there is one person is interested in Natalie’s story, a girl named Paula (Donna Locke) who has a bit of an interest in all things horror. Meanwhile, Natalie finds that she is still being pursued by the maniacs. The next night she and her wanna-be boyfriend, Steven (Alan Hayes) are chased by the creatures, who attack them on an otherwise empty subway train.
Meanwhile, Paula has done some investigating and learns that the maniacs live beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and also have a weakness…water. It causes them to melt Wicked Witch of the West style. So…Natalie, Steve, and Paula determine that it is up to them to defeat the creatures. They plot to arm all their fellow students with water pistols at the upcoming school dance, which Steve’s bands is playing at. When the maniacs come to attack Natalie, they’ll turn on the water works. However, what they didn’t figure is that it’s a costume dance…so it becomes harder to pick the actual mutants out of the crowd.
Ok, first let’s get this out of the way. The only weakness of our murdering maniacs is water. Plain old H2O. Yet they live under the Golden Gate Bridge…like a few feet away from a rather large body of water. I mean if I were a deformed maniac whose only weakness was water I wouldn’t live under a bridge a few feet away from the ocean. I’d start looking at properties in someplace Phoenix, maybe Reno…but that’s just me.
Neon Maniacs is a pretty silly B-horror flick, but I gotta admit I had a lot of fun with it. Believe it or not, I’m about to compare this weird little movie to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Both take place in northern California, but more importantly both offer no explanation for why the titular creatures are attacking. We never know why the birds start their rampage and we never know why suddenly the Neon Maniacs have emerged from beneath the Golden Gate Bridge to murder teenagers. I kinda dug that. I guess these creatures had just had enough. Maybe they don’t get cable down there, maybe they just learned that the Village People stole their act. Whatever it was, they’re not gonna take it anymore.
The different characters of the maniacs are kind of fun. The samurai gets quite a bit of screen time, as does another one who is kind of a wolf boy type. The freakiest one is probably the surgeon. He provides the film’s most gruesome moment when he attacks the hapless school security guard and performs an impromptu surgery on the poor guy, even removing his heart. The scene is actually not that gory, neither is the film as a whole, but I’m not a fan of medical dramas in general…so yuck. I do wish that the film had exploited the different character traits of the maniacs a bit more, though, and gotten more creative with kills.
One of the best things about Neon Maniacs is the wonderful 80’s vibe of the whole thing. The final sequence where the maniacs attack the school dance is crazy. To start with, we almost forget that the maniacs are coming because the film gets a bit too caught up in the battle of the bands that is going on. Steve’s band is a pop act where he serves as a kind of low-rent Rick Astley. They’re up against a heavy metal act that got all their clothes at Motley Crue’s garage sale. Then, when the maniacs attack the dance, we end up with a scene that’s something like Carrie but with squirt guns and fire hoses.
These nasty mutants are never going to have a place of honor among the murdering maniacs of 80’s cinema. However, Neon Maniacs is a bit of crazy fun. It’s premise is simple: mutants attack teenagers, teenagers fight back with squirt guns. That’s really all there is to it, and that’s fine with me.