While nearly every fan appraisal of this movie laments how underrated it is by mainstream critics, I’m reluctant to go that far. I will say that the strangeness of "Neon Maniacs" is taken for granted even by those who champion its cult status. Godard and Fellini can go jerk each other off in the mausoleum the eggheads built. What we really need is a year-long Harvard think-tank devoted the analysis of this movie. I have spent far too long trying to figure out whether this this thing is a happy mistake, or a deliberately surreal masterpiece. Either way, "Neon Maniacs" is far more bizarre than it is given credit for being.
If Alejandro Jodorowsky somehow wound up working on a movie for New World Pictures in the 80s, this is probably what would have happened. I can’t for certain credit artistic ineptitude, or even the interference of censors or the studio for this film’s end result. All I know is that watching this must be very close to experiencing brain damage by way of fever dream. Is something missing, or am I missing something? I have no fucking clue. All I know is that I feel like there is some greater meaning in all of this. I can't be near a pile of mashed potatoes without sculpting Mohawk or Ape now!
After Natalie survives the mass slaughter of her friends by a Village People ensemble of killers, she’s suspended from school due to disruption brought on by the suspicion of disbelieving parents and other students. During her mandated home study she becomes infatuated with grocery delivery boy Steven, who looks like a cross between Paul Riser and Jim Goad. Too soon after, Natalie's romantic interest finds himself fending for life and limb as the maniacs who killed Natalie's friends stalk them both. Fortunately, odd-ball Paula, an amateur film maker and horror nut, is obsessed with helping Natalie destroy the Neon Maniacs after discovering that H20 is their only weakness.
I’m not sure if the finale makes no sense, or if it makes so much goddamn sense that it’s over my fucking head, but Steven, Natalie, and Paula decide to lure the villains to a horrible battle of the bands, where they arm the unwitting audience with water guns in the hope that they will assassinate the Neon Maniacs. Because, you know, teenagers are immature pricks, and if you give them a water gun, what WON'T they spray? By the way, this plays into my sexual subtext theory later on.
Ultimately, things go awry and a bunch of kids get chopped up before Paula manages to uncap a fire hose. Strangely, the blood bath seems to conclude with the consummation of Natalie and Steven's mutual crush in a dark chem lab. This is the one odd detail that really opened my eyes and made my stop drinking when I watch this movie. I am now convinced that "Neon Maniacs" is laced with psychotic commentary on modern sex values. This also ties into a scene in the beginning of the film, where Natalie is chastised by a friend for clinging to her virginity. Were the Neon Maniacs thwarted when Steven graffiti'd Natalie's teenage love canal with his semen? And then there's diminutive woman-child Paula who uses a FIRE HOSE to melt a DUDE WITH A SWORD! COME ON! ZARDOZ had less phallic imagery for crying out loud!
Have you ever had a mugger hand a 20 pound dildo off to you, steal your wallet, and then bolt, leaving you only with an armful of big rubber dong? Well, that’s kind of how this thing ends. You don’t watch this movie. It watches you as it victimizes you.
This trailer qualifies as required viewing before you see this movie. This is the "Neon Maniacs" bible. It imparts FAR MORE INFORMATION about the villains than the movie itself does. We never find out how the Neon Maniacs are created, who they are, or what their motivation is. I can only speculate that perhaps the street punks whom Natalie and friends shout hate speech at in the beginning of the film somehow have something to do with this mess, which would explain why water also fucks their shit up. Everyone knows that street punks hate being clean.
An honorable mention must go to adorably impish Donna Locke for her performance as Paula, a 15 year old AV’er with a head full of morbid interests. I’m convinced she was 35 when they shot this movie, but after being stricken by the luck of Heather O’Rourke she stopped growing early on, thus granting her eternal youth. However, if you freeze frame one of her scenes and look deep into her eyes, you will see at least forty years of sorrow and painkiller abuse, which makes the pedophile in me want to take her in my arms and make it all better somehow. I love you Donna, where ever you are.
Anyway, of all the movies that have threatened us with sequels, the prospect of a "Neon Maniacs 2" frightens me. It’s hard to believe they could have somehow augmented the original film, which as a singular effort represents a strong argument both for and against peyote. If anything, they probably would have just ruined a good thing with some weak-ass Bud The C.H.U.D. shit anyway.
By the way, here’s a VHS Summer Challenge: if you’re watching this with a group of friends, make sure you print out the following lyrics to the “Who’s The Boss” theme so you can all sing along to the score. Amazingly, they fit almost perfectly together.