Neon Maniacs (1986)

Directed by Joseph Mangine [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ll be forthcoming and admit that I didn’t go into this one with high expectations. Truthfully, I was thinking that I’d rather dislike it. But as it turns out, not only did I enjoy it, but despite some very glaring problems, I actually rather loved it.

I want to talk about the big problem with the film first before I go into praising it incessantly. We never find out what exactly the monsters are, or where they come from, or what they want, or why they want it. They seem to come out at night to kill, and that’s about all we know about them. Some of their designs are a bit off, but for most of the main ones, I thought they were decent (such as the one with ropes). Also, it could be argued that the film doesn’t have much coherency.

All of that said, though, I had a great time with this.

In a somewhat unique choice, Neon Maniacs plays itself pretty straight for most of the film. With a title like it has, you’d expect endless camp and maybe silly comedy (think Troma), but aside from a few funny lines (and the scene at the turnstiles), the movie’s nothing like that (which goes a long way to explain why I enjoyed it more than I thought I would). The characters know they’re in danger, and there’s a pretty somber tone throughout, especially toward the end (speaking of which, that final line is fantastic).

There’s a lot of great scenes here, such as the really cool pool sequence and much of the battle of the bands finale. That battle of the bands was fun especially because I actually really liked that first song, ‘Baby Lied.’ It was catchy and totally my jam. Even ignoring the fun music, though, when it randomly cut to Donna Locke’s character sitting atop the speakers and cheering, dressed as a vampire, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Donna Locke is perhaps the number one reason I loved this film. Her character’s utterly adorable, and is a lot more interesting and proactive than the actual main character of the film (played by Leilani Sarelle). She directs low-budget horror films, fights off a few monsters single-handedly, goes to investigate and videotape the monsters, and consistently tries to hook up with Sarelle in order to fight against them. Donna Locke’s character is utterly badass, and it’s a damn shame that Locke has never appeared in anything else. I really liked her character, and cheered whenever she was onscreen.

Clyde Hayes and Leilani Sarelle do well too, they’re just not nearly as memorable. Hayes previously appeared in the fourth Friday the 13th, but he was more prominent here, which worked well, as he was decently action-oriented. The scenes in which Hayes, Sarelle, and Locke worked together in order to fight off the monsters were all rather fun, so props to that.

Neon Maniacs surprised me. It has pretty good special effects, some effectively atmospheric sequences (such as Locke traveling in the fog), memorable characters, decent deaths, and enjoyable music, all tied together with a would-be campy plot played generally straight. I will admit to being taken aback, but that was my mistake. A really enjoyable movie, despite the origins of the monsters never being made clear.

8.5/10

This is one of the first movies Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I covered on our Fight Evil, so listen below as we awkwardly discuss it.

Author: Jiggy's Horror Corner

Fan of the horror genre, writer of mini-reviews, and lover of slashers.

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