When I first saw the 1986 film Neon Maniacs on cable in the 80s, I loved it. Upon rewatching it, it still holds a special place in my 80s horror collection. It’s got so much going for it. The lead girl went on to play Sharon Stone’s butch dyke girlfriend Roxy in Basic Instinct. There’s the cliché horror movie-obsessed kid who knows just how to take on these freaky Neon Maniacs—only this time, the kid is a girl! There’s a B.J. beheading. There’s the fact that the redheaded guy who starred as Montgomery in the first season of Fame left that show to go on to play…a minor character in Neon Maniacs. There’s a high school gym dance. There’s a power pop band in skinny ties and a metal band in spandex. There are posters for Gremlins and Blade Runner on a bedroom wall. There’s a Mr. Bill T-shirt! Need I go on?
The film takes place in San Francisco. The bizarre looking Neon Maniacs—actually, they’re only slightly more menacing than something you’d see at the Halloween parade in New York City, which makes them the gayest thing in this movie’s portrayal of San Francisco—come out of these big metal doors under the Golden Gate Bridge and start hacking up teens with their tomahawks, spears, bows and arrows, and other ancient weapons. Sharon Stone’s butch dyke girlfriend witnesses the truth and tries to tell the authorities, but everyone thinks she made it all up.
Luckily, the young horror chick believes her and quickly figures out exactly what kills these Neon Maniacs. They come up with a plan to annihilate the Neon Maniacs during a costume party at the high school. And so begins one of the most obnoxious, self-serving “concert clips” ever to interrupt the flow of a horror movie! I guess the director was trying to help promote some friends’ bands….
That concert aside, there are some really great creepy moments, such asthe great edge-of-your-seat chase scene on a subway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the pursuers THIS close to the intended victims before. EEK! The most gnarly Neon Maniac appears to have been the inspiration for Resident Evil’s Nemesis (just look at the cover of the DVD). But possibly the absolute best line of the film comes when Sharon Stone’s butch dyke girlfriend asks her boyfriend on the empty subway, “Where is everyone?” and he replies, “Home watching Dynasty.” Classic.
On the downside, there’s a horrible soundtrack of bad ballads that sound like something out of the 70s. In fact, the opening credits, flashed across a black screen, use this horrible music, but thankfully, right after that, we are brought back to the 80s as a van full of teens drives past a club surrounded by punk rockers while a power pop tune is blaring.
The biggest issues sticklers will have with this film is that, well, it pretty much makes no sense. There’s absolutely no explanation for why the Neon Maniacs arrive (other than some odd Neon Maniacs Tarot cards found by a fisherman in a cow’s skull), why they come out from under the Golden Gate Bridge (where the fisherman finds the cards), what their goal is (they only seem to be pursuing the kids who know they exist after the first slaughter takes place), and several other little details that seem to be tossed into the film for no reason.
The conclusion of the film feels like it should have just concluded five minutes earlier, because the epilogue seems like a desperate attempt to stage a sequel. Maybe the sequel would have explained all the plot holes. Who knows. And who cares. It’s pure 80s cheese on crackers and I just gobble it up.