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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Neon Maniacs

This week's movie is short on logic, but long on "WTF was THAT???" It's called Neon Maniacs, which is the first bizarre aspect of the film that never gets explained, and it's another "gem" from the mid-80's. It's sort of what The Monster Squad would have looked like if it had been R-rated. SPOILERS from here on out, so prepare yourself for a strange slasher this week....

The first scene more or less prepares us for the weirdness, by not really preparing us at all. For several seconds of narration, the screen is black, and a narrator says the following: "When the world is rule by violence and the soul of mankind fades, the children's' path shall be darkened by the shadows of...the Neon Maniacs." Well, that made everything perfectly clear, right? then we see some guy fishing at night. He picks up his gear to go home, then sees the skull of a steer in front of a door that's ajar. Curious, he lifts it up, and finds a small package inside the skull. It turns out to be a series of cards, each depicting a different "monster" posing for the world's lamest boudoir photo gallery. As the guy studies them, the door behind him opens wider, and an unseen person attacks the fisherman with an ax. Then we get the credits(complete with a New Age-y sounding theme song), featuring a cast so unknown, they might as well have been in Witness Protection rather than a movie!

Then we meet our schmucks, a group of teens in a van. There's Natalie, a cute blond celebrating her birthday; Lisa, an equally cute brunette; Steven, a nerdy schoolmate out walking his dog(named "Dog", according to him....until he calls it Elvis a minute later), and who seems to have a bit of a crush on Natalie; Ray, a curly-haired a-hole; and another couple who weren't introduced. They pretty much make fun of Steven, then drive away. Important stuff.

Up next, we meet a younger teen in a Dracula costume, a girl named Paula. She lives in a bedroom that Tommy Jarvis would've loved, filled with horror magazines, scary movie posters, and a zillion or so monster masks. She pretends that a werewolf mask is eating her hand. I think we've met the film's token virgin...

At a local park, the van full of teens disembark. A biker drives through their party, and we learn the name of that one anonymous girl is Sue. Her boyfriend, a dopey-looking guy in a denim vest, appears to be named Wally. While they flirt, Natalie and Lisa watch from the van. Oh, and this is kinda random, but Natalie in this scene looks a LOT like Ellie Cornell, the actress who played Rachel in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5. Weird, because in the previous scene, I didn't see it at all. Weird.

The 2 girls discuss birth control, which is as interesting as it sounds. *YAAAAWWWWN* Jim and Sue sit at a secluded picnic table in the dark, oblivious to the small army of monsters approaching. A firecracker goes off, scaring the couple, and one of the rubbery monsters sneaks up on them with a harpoon gun. Wally leaves Sue alone in the dark to find a spot where he can pee.

Natalie is revealed to be a virgin(2 virgins in 1 horror film? Crazy!), then we get a random shot of the Golden Gate Bridge and it apparently screams. Wally is still peeing, and Ray is about to get a blowjob. Boy, this thing is random. Natalie is still in the van, listening to the most laid-back deejay ever.

Wally decides to lie down near the tree he peed on(smart!), and is the first to die when a Maniac that resembles a big reptile plunges a hook into his face. Next to die is the girl going down on Ray, who is beheaded in the middle of the act right before Ray is killed also, by a Maniac dressed like a Samurai. The guy on the motorcycle gets it next, with a punch to the face by a biker Maniac. They brawl for a short time, while Samurai goes after the idiot with the firecrackers.

Confused yet? Wait, it gets even better. Dumbass firecracker guy plunges one into the Samurai's gut, which does absolutely nothing to him at all. The 2 bikers brawl some more, until the Maniac one grabs the ankle of the human biker dude and snaps it. Samurai also finishes off the firecracker guy by hacking off his arm, then stabbing him repeatedly.

Lisa and Ray stop making out long enough to notice that most of their friends have just been killed by monsters. Ray tosses his football at them, and Harpoon Maniac shoots it. Ray gets strangled by a noose, while Lisa is brought down by an arrow in her back. Natalie watches them die, then tries to escape in the van. A friggin' CAVEMAN leaps out of a tree to attack her. I shit you not. Being The Smartest Girl In The Movie, Natalie locks all of the doors, then climbs into the back of the van to hide. You read that right: Instead of getting out of there in THE VAN SHE COULD DRIVE AWAY IN, she climbs into the back. Awesome.

The Maniacs start to waddle in her direction, then try to get to Natalie by smashing the doors and windows. Then they just give up. Oh wait, no, they were just trying to sneak up on her. Gee movie, you sure had me fooled! As a group, the Maniacs decide to try to tip the van over. Then they stop again. And then the cops show up.

Oh, and this is only the first 15 minutes of the film.

At the police station, Natalie tries to explain what she saw, but no one buys her story. Well, almost no one--a detective named Wiley seems intrigued. The lieutenant, a cigar-chomping, smoke-blowing numbskull named Devin, suggests that they wait until morning to see if any evidence turns up. Uhhhhhh, say what now? You have several kids dead, and you don't want to secure the crime scene. What a douchebag. I hope he dies next.

Natalie gets a ride home from a chick who looks like Baby from Dirty Dancing. She hears a message from her mother on the answering machine...apparently, her folks are away on vacation. She nearly calls them, but changes her mind. Then Natalie does what any teen girl would do if she just saw her friends attacked by monsters: she undresses, and goes out to the family pool to swim in the middle of the night. Gotta love movie logic.

Once Natalie enters the pool, Neanderthal Man(iac) is seen watching her from the bushes. Before he can grab her, Nat dives under the water, and swims toward an inner tube. Oh, and she never sees or hears him during this scene, even after he growls in frustration. Oh, and did I mention that he resembles a shaggy version of comedian Daniel Tosh? Yup.

Natalie starts to fall asleep on the inner tube, until drops of blood hit her in the face. She opens her eyes and sees that it's raining blood. Horrified, she tries to get out of the pool, but gets pulled under. No was only a dream. How original. Natalie wakes up for real, and it really is raining this time. The scene just ends there.

The next day at the park, the cops are looking for evidence to either support or disprove Natalie's tale. Since it rained the night before, I seriously doubt they'll find anything. Damn, they heard me! Wiley finds a bunch of "gook", which he collects in an evidence bag. No bodies, though.

Paula, the girl with the monster fixation, is scolded by her mother for oversleeping. The phone rings, and Paula speaks to her friend Gary. He tells her about the kids who vanished in the park, and that there was also no blood.

At school that same day, Steven sees Natalie between classes, but doesn't get an opportunity to speak to her. Some generic girl asks Natalie about what happened, but she doesn't really say much about the previous night. Then Paula shows up, hoping to get all of the gruesome details of the incident. Steven watches the entire conversation, then goes to class.

At lunch, Steven continues to get all googly-eyed at Natalie. A friend of his named Gene tells him to ask her out, because every girl who just saw most of her friends killed would LOOOOOOVE to go out on a date right afterwards. Oh, and then we meet a pretty aggressive girl named Donna. She's pissed at Natalie because her brother, Ray, is among the missing. She demands answers, and attacks Natalie when she doesn't get the answers that she wants. Steven leaps up tp defend Natalie, who gathers her books up and leaves the cafeteria. The school then informs Natalie that she should stay home until the investigation is finished, so she walks home and locks herself inside.

After school, Paula and some of her geeky friends(John, Wendy and a kid who looks like a young Ron Howard) meet up at a graveyard. They're making a movie. About vampires. In broad freakin' daylight. Oh movie, how I love your sheer stupidity. Paula calls Natalie after the filming is done, but gets hung up on.

Steven is holed up in his room practicing on a guitar(for you young'uns, guitars are the things that you play REAL music on, as opposed to the plastic ones you get when you buy Guitar Hero. See? You just learned something!), when there's a knock on his door. It's his sister, telling him that his father needs him to fill in for an employee who didn't show up at the grocery store.

Natalie gets another phone call, this time from one of the distraught parents. Natalie gets upset, then throws a glass of milk. Very dramatic stuff. I bet she was nominated for Best Actress for this scene.

Paula decides to ride her bicycle over to the crime scene, to have a look around. She finds some green slime almost immediately and dips her fingers in it. Give this gal a Nobel Prize for overall intelligence! She gets back on her bike.

Steven looks over the list of groceries he has to deliver(wait, that's a real job?), and sees that Natalie is on the list. He puts on his coolest shades, some make-out music, then rings her doorbell. She's out in the backyard by the pool, so she doesn't hear him at the door. Something tells me that Stevie-boy doesn't mind making a special trip to see her in a bikini. Hell, he even insists on putting all of the groceries away for her. They talk, and he tells her that he believes her story. Then he strikes gold, getting her to agree to go to a movie that evening. Go Steve!

Then we return to Paula. She's found more slime(yellow this time), and tracked it to the mysterious door where the fisherman found the cards. She decides to look around the bridge, and follows a path to yet another mystery door, which is surrounded by dead birds. She gets snatched, but not by a Maniac...a cop finds her and questions her. He soon lets her go home, which she apparently can't do unless one hand is firmly holding her baseball cap onto her head. I want to like her character in this, but does she have to be a COMPLETE dork?? Another cop brings Paula her bicycle, and she heads home, only to be scolded by her parents before they go out to dinner.

The idiot cops from the previous scene are still at the bridge, when one gets attacked by the Maniac with the ropes. After he gets strangled to death, Paula approaches the squad car, only to find the other cop missing as well. She finds a good hiding spot, then watches the door underneath the bridge for any activity.Some of the Maniacs emerge, including 2 that I think were the police officers. Then it starts to rain, and we discover that water is their big makes 'em melt.

We briefly see a pointless scene with Lieutenant Devin listening to the recording of Natalie's interrogation session, then it switches back to Paula, who has run all the way home. She goes over the footage of the Maniacs that she just took, but nothing shows up.

Steven's van died, so he and Natalie take a subway for their big date. Paula, in the meantime, tries to make a plan to protect herself against the Maniacs. She lists their weaknesses as "garlic", "crucifix", and "mirrors", Paula? Didn't you just see what WATER did to them? It's kind of a good starting point, dipshit!

The Maniacs show up at the subway station, and use "magic" to enter. A guy in the ticket booth just watches the bizarre group as they pass him. Steven and Natalie find the subway platform deserted, so they pass the time by chatting. Natalie catches a brief glimpse of a Maniac wielding a spear, but Steven calms her down and they share a kiss.

Too bad Steven's kisses aren't magic, because the Maniacs arrive at the same time as the subway train does. Steve and Nat climb aboard, keeping an eye out for any Maniacs in the nearby vicinity. Except for the teens, all of the other compartments seem to be deserted. As Steven makes a remark about the engineer being normal like them, the Maniacs attack the engineer. Jinx!

While the teens try to figure out the reason the monsters keep attacking Natalie, the Maniacs appear in the next subway car. Steven suggests trying to get help from the engineer, but he's now a Maniac as well. The rest of the Maniacs closely pursue the teens, until Steven uses his belt to tie the next doors they pass through shut.

Sadly, they didn't plan on some of the Maniacs being in cars AHEAD of them as well. Samurai Maniac confronts them from the front, and the other Maniacs cut through the belt and emerge from the door behind the unhappy couple. Uh oh. As the Maniacs prepare to kill the teens, the emergency brakes operate, throwing everyone off-balance.

The exits open, allowing Steven and Natalie to escape. Most of the Maniacs chase them, with the exception of the one driving(I assume) and Samurai. I guess they just wanted to enjoy the ride. Steve and Nat get on a bus, make sure the driver's a human, then try to calm their nerves. In the least-surprising moment so far, a Maniac arm crashes through a bus window to put Steven in a headlock. The arm starts to smoke and dissolve(????), and after a brief struggle, Steven throws it out the window. A guy walking his dog sees it, and mutters that he needs to move out of the neighborhood. Hardy-har.

Devin calls Wiley to tell him that the key to the murders in the park is Natalie. After waking him up with this obvious fact, he tells Wiley to go back to sleep. Ass.

Paula, asleep in her bed, is woken by someone in the house. It's a Maniac. She feigns sleep until he gets near the bed, then she leaps up with a crucifix thrust out in front of her. When the monster just stares at it dumbly, she goes to her back-up plan: a squirt gun. She shoots water at the face of the thing, and it staggers backwards into a bathtub. Yeesh, these Maniacs are dumb! Paula fills the tub and watches the Maniac melt.

The next morning, Steven wakes up on Natalie's couch. He hears glass breaking, and runs into the kitchen to see if she's in trouble. Nope. She dropped a plate. Why can't this chick enter a kitchen without breaking stuff??? After some pleasantries, Natalie lets him take a shower. Rowr! I wonder if she joins him?

Paula arrives at Natalie's front door, and gets it slammed in her face....until she describes how the Maniacs came after her. She tells them about the way water damages the Maniacs, then all 3 take turns saying, "Water." I guess this movie was intended for the Sesame Street demographic. Water.

Paula brings them to the mystery door, where Detective Wiley just happens to be staking out the location from a safe distance, with his trusty binoculars. He then follows them as they drive around in Steven's delivery van. Together, Steven, Paula and Natalie hatch the dumbest plan in the history of dumb plans: As a group. they're going to go to a "Battle of the Bands" competition, and hand out squirt guns to the audience, thereby aming it "the safest place to be". Ummmm....okay, whatever. This movie hurts my brain.

At the competition, everyone is dressed in costumes for no discernible reason. Steven's in one of the bands, which is a pretty good gig for a guy who started the film as a social outcast. Paula's watching from a high vantage point above the crowd, and Natalie is near the front of the crowd with the friend who picked her up at the police station. The other band competing is a generic hair band.

The music is excruciating. Let's just leave it at that, mmm-kay?

The mystery door opens, and the Maniacs emerge, more than a dozen by now. Given how slow they move, I'm pretty sure no one will get hurt until the sequel arrives. Steven's band finishes torturing my ears with their awfulness, then the lights go out. When they come up again, the hair band plays a song that sounds like a roomful of cats being tortured.

Wiley's still keeping an eye on the teens from his car when the Maniacs make their way down the street. He somehow missed spotting them, because they get into the school by loudly smashing windows. They make their way through the school, until they spot an oblivious janitor or security guard watching a baseball game. A Doctor Maniac sneaks up on him with a rag dipped in ether, knocks him out, then performs "surgery" on him, ripping out his entrails.

The second band finishes at about the same time the guard gets his heart ripped out. Steven gets a lucky kiss from Natalie before he joins his band for their second song, then Nat decides to get some fresh air. She enters a restroom, unaware that there are Maniacs roaming nearby.

Steven's band plays a sappy ballad next, while a punk rocker gets mowed down and dragged away by the Motorcycle Maniac. Then Natalie is spooked when another girl enters the bathroom. Nat rejoins her friend to watch Steven sing. Then the Maniacs start to mingle with the crowd. Paula finally sees one start to drag Natalie's friend away, and she and Natalie get Steven's attention.

Steven tries to get the audience to arm their water pistols, but a Commando Maniac bursts in and starts shooting at the crowd. Detective Wiley hears the commotion, and grabs his gun. Sadly, no one in the audience does. They stampede like wild cattle, and many are either trampled or taken by Maniacs.

Wiley finally gets inside and faces down the Reptile Maniac. Before he can shoot it, Doctor Maniac slits his throat with a scalpel. Stephen helps another student tackle a Maniac, but Steven drops his gun in the process. Paula tries to grab it for him, but the crowd kicks it around the floor. Just as the Maniac gets up again and grabs an ax, Paula uses an emergency firehose to decapitate it with a rush of water.

In an interesting twist, Reptile Maniac uses the hook it carries to attack Samurai, dragging him across the floor. Paula takes down several more Maniacs with the hose, and Steven convinces Natalie that they should escape while they can. Nice friends. Within seconds, the auditorium is empty, making Paula realize that her "friends" left her behind.

On the stairwell, Steven pauses to break out another firehose. He drags it to the stairs, then turns on the water. Sure enough, a Maniac tries to come upstairs, and is swiftly zapped by the water. Steven and Natalie hide in a science classroom, and the Noose guy quickly catches up. He doesn't find them, and vents his anger by bashing lockers in the corridor. Our young couple decide to start making out.

After several shots establish just how empty the school is(hint: it's EMPTY) Paula emerges from the auditorium and leaves. The movie cuts back to the police station, where angry parents are demanding to know what happened to their missing children. Paula, Steven and Natalie give their story to Devlin, who clearly doesn't buy it. Then he makes a call, and gets a team of cops and firefighters to the building the Maniacs where they first appeared. All are armed with water pistols and firehoses.

They get the mystery door opened and enter the building, with Devlin in the lead. They get spooked by a bird, then Devlin suggests that they should all split into smaller groups. They find several abandoned vehicles and a lot of junk, but no Maniacs. Devlin clears everyone out, then has one of his men take the kids home.

Devlin goes back in alone, and stops next to an old truck. He wanders through the place again, and spots a light flashing from the back of a delivery truck. Opening the rear doors, he finds Lizard waiting for him, and it drags him inside. As Devlin screams, the doors to both the truck and the building close again. Driving home, Steven advises the girls to keep their squirt guns, in case they ever need to fight off Maniacs again. THE END.

Wow. It's a tough movie to rate. On the one hand, some of the Maniacs were well-designed, and there were several kills, making for a high body count. On the other hand, the movie was silly as Hell, and there's no really interesting backstory to explain where the Maniacs came from, or why they were so infatuated with Natalie. And why did the reptilian one change sides toward the end, only to go bad again? And what made them "neon" in any way, shape or form? Why not call the film Hydrophobic Maniacs? Or Teen Girl Stalker Maniacs? Or Golden Gate Bridge Maniacs, since they emerged from underneath it?

Well, despite the many, many dumb things that are in this movie, I still got a kick out of it. Goofy horror films were in their heyday in the 1980's, and this one fits right in with movies like Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad and Night of the Comet. I'll rate it about 3.5 killer trees out of 5. If I hadn't been left with so many questions at the end, it would've probably scored a point higher just for the sheer goofiness of it all.

And what did the Neon Maniacs teach me this week?

-Squirt guns are lethal to monsters.
-So is music from nearly 30 years ago.
-Any guy can win the affection of any girl, as long as they live in the 1980's.

Up next on my queue is a film called The Groundskeeper. Maybe it'll be good(he says with much doubt).Have a good week!