Neon Maniacs (1986) poster

Neon Maniacs (1986)


USA. 1986.


Director – Joseph Mangine, Screenplay – Mark Patrick Carducci, Producers – Christopher Arnold & Steve Mackler, Photography – Joseph Mangine & Oliver Wood, Music – Kendall Schmidt, Mechanical Effects – Image Engineering, Makeup Effects – Makeup Effects Labs (Supervisors – Allan A. Apone & Douglas J. White). Production Company – Cimarron Productions.


Leilani Sarelle (Natalie Lawrence), Alan Hayes (Steven), Donna Locke (Paula Raymond), Victor Ellen Brandt (Lieutenant Devin), David Muir (Wylie), Marta Kober (Lorraine), Amber Austin (Lisa)


In San Francisco, teenager Natalie Lawrence joins a group of friends as they go to party in Tracy Park. There the group are attacked and slaughtered by mutants. Natalie is the only survivor but the police do not believe her story about what happened. The only one that does is Steven, the cute guy in her class that Natalie likes, and Paula, a younger wannabe horror filmmaker who is determined to film the mutants. This draws the attention of the mutants who rise out of the tunnels they inhabit near the Golden Gate Bridge and come to eliminate them.

Neon Maniacs was the second of only two films directed by Joseph Mangine. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Mangine worked as a cinematographer with credits on a good many films, including the likes of Cinderella (1977), Alligator (1980), Mother’s Day (1980), Alone in the Dark (1982), The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) and Alligator II: The Mutation (1991), along with a number of adult films. Mangine’s only other directorial film was the obscure Smoke and Flesh (1968).

Neon Maniacs apparently had a troubled production history as a result of inadequate financing. This required the cutting of aspects of the script – like an explanation of where the monsters come from. The delays in shooting apparently required an almost complete recasting due to the original actors having become involved in other projects.

Eventually seen in a brand new dvd restoration, Neon Maniacs looks good. (Although you suspect that watching a crisp dvd restoration robs the film of its natural format – as a crappy, grainy VHS tape). It is very much a 1980s film designed to appeal directly to the kind of young fan of the day that brought every issue of Fangoria magazine. A typical synthesizer score of the era runs over everything. For all the reported problems behind the scenes and parts having to be abandoned or recast, the story such as it is holds together with no major gaps in exposition apart from an origin for the creatures, which it works okay without.

The mutants in Neon Maniacs (1986)
The mutants rise

We get a typical teen cast of the era – girls in big hair, a handsome boyfriend who is in a band (that get to play some numbers at the climax) and a nerdy wannabe horror filmmaker who lives in a bedroom filled with monster movie posters. There are a bunch of the regular party types that would usually inhabit a typical slasher film of the era (who all get slaughtered within the opening moments), and a Final Girl of sorts (Leilani Sarelle) who is the sole one who survives the attack in the park for reasons unclear.

Into the bargain there are a host of cheesy looking Mutants, which are typical Makeup Effects Creations of the era. Exactly what they are and where they come from, apart from the tunnels beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, is left a complete blank. Nor does the title ever make apparent if these are the neon maniacs and what neon has to do with them anyway. The film does however rise to a level of entertaining preposterousness during the scenes where the mutants invade the battle of the bands concert where they are driven off with firehoses and water pistols amid assorted gore scenes and meltdowns.

Screenwriter Mark Patrick Carducci later went on to write the scripts for Pumpkinhead (1988) and Buried Alive (1990), as well as to direct the documentary Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion (1995). Carducci unfortunately committed suicide in 1997 at age 42.

Trailer here

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