WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
In life there has to be that one constant. In the face of work, commitments, bills and demonically possessed kittens there has to be that one source of comfort that you can fall back on, that safe place where you know everything’s alright and that your troubles won’t find you. For me, that safe place is neon coloured and dressed in spandex. The 80s b-movie is an amazing thing and makes no excuses for what it is. It’s daft, it’s filled to the brim with bad hair and it captures a time when mom jeans were just being handed out to women of all shapes, sizes and ages. One can’t overdo it with the 80s b-movie, however, lest we be fooled into thinking the mullet is an acceptable choice of hairstyle, but let’s take this moment to look back on a more strikingly colourful era and on the wonder that is Neon Maniacs.
The scene of the crime is San Francisco, a city of giant bridges, horny teenagers and excessive neon signs. It was a time when all the police were absolute pigs whose powers stopped just short of being able to beat a 10-year-old to within an inch of their lives for any arbitrary reason. Natalie and all her friends are out for the night in the park where they will indulge in the youthful pleasures of football, underage beer drinking and open air sex. That is, until the Neon Maniacs arrive on the scene. I’m guessing that since none of them are particularly neon in colour their name is some allusion to the sins of the city. With each individual dressed as a character from the past (ranging from cave man to Samurai to Native American) they make quick work of the gathered teenagers, hacking them to pieces and dragging their corpses off to their lair. Only Natalie survives the horrible incident, yet no one seems to believe her about who the assailants were.
Natalie’s a tough old broad, however, and isn’t about to let the brutal massacre of all her friends get her down. Displaying no emotion whatsoever she decides to go back to school the very next day. Her friends are dead so I’m guessing the idea is that there’s nothing she can do about it, so why worry? Since the police in town are not only pigs but the sort that wait for clear instructions to come from on high no official statement has been made and Natalie’s friends are officially reported missing. Assuming that it’s all some sort of elaborate prank the families of said missing friends start to give Natalie trouble, demanding to know where their loved ones are. When Natalie can’t provide them with any answers the principal suspends her from school until such time as the situation sorts itself out.
All this tragedy and upset doesn’t mean, of course, that Natalie can’t quickly resume her dating life. Onto the scene comes Steven, the most bizarre nerd / delivery boy / dog walker / aspiring rock star / sex machine combination to ever grace the small screen. Having been enamoured with Natalie for years he whole heartedly buys into the story of the Neon Maniacs and promises to keep her safe and help bring an end to their (rather short) reign of terror. They will be aided in their battle against evil by Paula, an enthusiastic high school amateur director (making her more highly qualified than many of the directors of the movies I’ve watched) and monster fan. Armed with only their wits, some water pistols, their inability to experience emotions and their general teenage angst it’s up to these three to save the world from the Neon Maniacs and their super sharp Shogun Knives.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Nothing hits the spot like $5 champagne.
- You don’t need a bouncer in a supermarket’s fruit section.
- Not having sex isn’t illegal, but it’s considered highly inappropriate in certain slut circles.
- It’s always best to go for a relaxing swim after you’ve witnessed the deaths of all your friends.
- In the 80s some high school seniors had yet to go through puberty.
- Women should be ostracised from the community for surviving a brutal massacre.
NEON MANIACS TRAILER
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
You know, this one really could have gone one of two ways. Being made in the 80s and with a title like Maniac Cop, the odds were really stacked against it. Thankfully everything was alright in the end and what we have is a delightful adventure in 80s horror about a maniac cop with superhuman abilities killing people left, right and centre. It reminds us that the 80s was a simpler time for our beloved horror genre: there aren’t all the complicated twists and turns in the plot, nobody’s trying to outsmart the last Saw movie and, generally, its sole purpose for existing is to give you a little fright. And quite frankly, at this stage in the b-horror game, anything made in the 80s that’s a step up from Cannibal Hookers is OK in my book 🙂
Now, as everybody knows, New York is an absolute death trap. The Grim Reaper follows you wherever you go and the next step you take might just be your last. Everywhere you look there are hookers and pimps and gang members and drug dealers and the occasional pissed off old lady with a solid walking stick. It makes sense then for this to be the setting for our movie. We begin one night where an innocent waitress at the local bar is on her way home when she’s attacked by two dodgy Puerto Ricans (oh yeah, can’t forget to mention them). Since the man standing ten feet across the road refuses to do anything but shrug our damsel in distress takes flight, fleeing for her very handbag. Taking refuge in a little playground the Puerto Ricans begin looking for her. Thankfully she spies an enormous policeman standing just at the edge of the park and she goes screaming over to him, begging for his help. Fearing that her skull is far too attached to her spine the policeman promptly lifts her up, crushes her larynx and breaks her neck and throws her to the ground. His good deed for the day done he disappears, and thus the plotline of Maniac Cop is born.
Detective Frank McCrae is displeased to find out that a maniac dressed in a policeman’s outfit is running around the town killing people and he’s determined to find out who’s doing this and put them behind bars. Unfortunately New York is just about to go to the polls and vote for a mayor and this apparently means that the incumbent mayor seeking re-election will go out of his way to hamper any and all good police work. More on this in a moment, first we need to discuss a little subplot going on at the other end of the movie. So here we have Jack Forrest, a young cop in a troubled marriage. One night he goes out on his patrol and as soon as he’s out the door his home phone rings and the caller tells his wife to follow him. She duly does, finds herself at a motel, finds her husband in bed with another cop named Theresa, threatens them both with a gun and then runs out the room. But the Maniac Cop is waiting for her and, as soon as she walks out of the building, he drags her into a van and kills her. Being a clever lunatic he figures he can frame Forrest this way and the mayor will have him arrested since he desperately needs to put someone behind bars to make it look like he can do his job properly.
Of course locking any old fool behind bars rarely means that the killer has ever been captured and, while Jack waits patiently in his cell, the maniac cop continues his reign of terror. McCrae is trying to figure everything out and suspects that whoever’s doing it must have been a one-time member of the force with a bone to pick. This being the 80s and the police headquarters only have a single computer, however, is making finding a specific lunatic who may fit this description a little hard going. It also doesn’t help that the maniac cop seems to be very well-connected and knows all about Theresa and stalks her one night while she’s working undercover as a hooker. When he tries to kill her she and McCrae both shoot him multiple times, but to no avail. To prove that he has superhuman qualities the maniac cop later breaks into the police headquarters where Jack’s being held and kills everyone in an attempt to frame Jack even further. With nobody believing them about what’s going on it falls to Jack, Theresa and McCrae to uncover the identity of the maniac cop before it’s too late and his dastardly plot comes to fruition.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- In the 80s even the coroners had mullets.
- People who enjoy killing often keep on killing.
- Irony is people telling you to drop dead while you’re trying to escape from a killer.
- In the 80s the only way to get city hall to do anything was to make a story bigger than AIDS.
- When someone’s scared of you the best thing to do to calm them down is to scream at them.
- When a man’s caught having an affair the first thing he wants to know is why the wife followed him.
- Coroners give out all kinds of information first and ask for IDs later.
MANIAC COP TRAILER
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Of all the trilogies that went awry this week, this one really went all out to screw up a franchise. The only way this could have been more of an 80s mess is if Linnea Quigly had been in it. A little birdy has informed me that the Halloween franchise has long since past the point where its a trilogy (I don’t think there are words for the number of movies that make it up now) but trying to find three separate franchises where the first two movies were connected and the third falls under the banner but has nothing to do with the first two is a tall order. Let’s travel back to a simpler and less colour coordinated time and investigate the wonders of Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Tommy Lee Wallace’s ill-conceived idea begins on a back road somewhere where a strange man is running away from a mysterious car. This movie’s nearly 100 minute run time is incredibly well padded, so the running carries on for quite a while before the car and its drivers eventually find the man hiding in plain sight and try to kill him with their bare hands. The man manages to escape and make his way to a little gas station but not without a few injuries, so the owner (who has a very odd-looking face) takes him to the hospital to be treated. It’s here that we meet our first main character, Dr Dan Challis. The good doctor really doesn’t do much but sleep in the nurse’s lounge, but for him to be active right now would interfere with the plot’s (alleged) development. In one of the rooms our stranger has been sedated and is busy resting, all the while clinging to a jack-o-lantern mask that he refuses to give up. While he’s sleeping a man similar to one of the Men In Black goes into the room and cracks the stranger’s skull in before going back to his car and setting himself on fire. Making any sense yet? No? Don’t worry, I’ll try to get you there…
In an attempt to shift the movie into second gear we find out that the stranger has a daughter named Ellie, and she wants to know exactly why anyone would want to kill her dear old dad. Since the old man owned a Halloween novelty store and was on his way to top up on his Silver Shamrock line of Halloween masks she decides that this is as good a place as any to start. Dr Dan also goes beyond the call duty and decides to tag along with her to try and find out what happened to his poor patient. The two make their way to Santa Mira, a tiny little Irish community in the hell and back of nowhere that’s about as relaxed and welcoming as London in 1984. Everyone’s under surveillance, the entire town is centred around the Silver Shamrock factory, a curfew’s in effect from 6pm and the most irritating advert for the Shamrock masks is playing on every TV in the country. Still not seeing how the movie’s working here? Don’t worry, if you actually watch it in all its tedious glory everything’s so slow to happen that you have plenty time to figure out what’s going on.
OK, so the long short of it is that the Silver Shamrock company is busy making some very special Halloween masks for all the wee ones out there. The factory is owned by a man named Conal Cochran and the masks he’s making come kitted out with a very special trademark attached to the back that, when activated, kills the children and makes them ooze insects. This is all in some way connected to an ancient Celtic sacrifice that apparently takes place every 3000 years and involves sacrificing a lot of children at a time of planetary alignment. The trademarks are powered by a giant stone that Cochran managed to steal from Stonehenge and cart all the way back to the States without anyone noticing a thing. The stone, along with the bewitched and bedazzled trademarks, will activate themselves on Halloween night (most of the movie takes place in the lead up to Halloween rather than on the actual day) by a specially programmed advert. Dr Dan and Ellie now need to find a way into the factory, find out what’s happening, stop Cochran and not be killed by his army of super advanced robots.
My final thoughts. Having read some reviews I was quite surprised to find that some people out there quite enjoyed this movie. I think the problem for me personally is that the Halloween movies, apart from this one, define what good horror is and they are the standard against which all other movies are measured. Michael Myers terrified me as a child and can still give me nightmares, so to see this is just sad. Whether it could have functioned as a stand alone movie if it didn’t fall into the Halloween franchise is hard to say. To give it some credit, however, despite its complete lack of continuity and irritatingly slow pace it does contain two short scenes from the original Halloween movie in it. Having done that it already has more of an authentic Halloween feel to it than anything Rob Zombie could have hoped to accomplish 🙂
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- A car moving at 1.5 miles an hour can easily crush a man.
- Brandy and surgery go brilliantly together.
- You need a little lower arm strength to rip someone’s skull to pieces.
- Malls will be the death of small Halloween mask shops.
- Motels bring out the sleazy in everyone.
- Security cameras in the 80s were designed to be very loud and very noticeable.
- The local town drunk should be your first port of call when trying to snoop for information.
- Children frequently go trick or treating way up in the hills surrounding a major city.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH TRAILER
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THE PARTY’S OVER!
July was an amazing month, but like all good things even a month stuffed full of crap movies from the 80s must run its course. I have learned many things on this little adventure, and I hope that everyone who has read my reviews is equally enlightened. Now it is time to carry on as I have before and look for cheese from any era I desire and rip it to shreds with as much humour as I can muster. Gone are the 80s hair, the spandex and the music but rest assured, dear readers, they will be replaced with things just as bad if not more so, just from a later time in b-movie film-making that we are all a little more familiar with. If you missed any of the 80s madness, here’s a list of movies that form part of my first themed month:
Year of Release: 1987
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi
IMDB Rating: 2.8 / 10
Level of Awful: High
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
No 1987-themed month would be complete without throwing in a little post-apocalyptic sci-fi gem and I think the devil himself might have sent this one up just to play with me a little. Thankfully Satan and I can have a good laugh about these things so when he tripled dared me to watch Creepozoids starring Linnea Quigley I told him it was on! And so I sat for 70 or so minutes with highly processed butter-flavoured popcorn at the ready and watched with great amusement as this little movie tried to limp itself along to a place called ‘something half-decent’. Sadly it never quite made it to its destination and all that remains is the rotting corpse of half-a-dozen people’s acting careers.
The year is 1998 and, in the wise words of Crow T Robot, we’re trapped in our old future. 6 years have passed since the outbreak of World War III and planet Earth is in a very sorry state indeed. Playing on what I imagine must have been the fears surrounding the USSR the Super Powers of the world have declared all-out nuclear warfare, devastating the planet and leaving enormous parts of it completely uninhabitable. Apart from the obvious problems like trying to secure a reliable food source most parts of the world are now being ravaged by highly caustic acid rain that destroys absolutely everything it comes into contact with. To keep the war going the US, whose centre of government is New Los Angeles (no word on what happened to the old one), simply drafts people into the army and sends them to the frontline. Those unwilling to fight are lined up and shot. This is kind of where the storyline takes off and we are introduced to 5 military deserters making their way through a ruined city of some sort. They need to stay low to ensure that nobody catches them but, unfortunately, they find themselves right in the path of a rather nasty acid storm, whereupon they seek shelter in one of the many abandoned buildings around them. While they are hopelessly trapped in there until the storm passes they seem to have been in a little luck as the place is quite well kitted out with all of the essentials: food, clothing, bedding, electricity and, most importantly, a two-man shower (see photo). To begin with everything seems to be absolutely perfect but, as is always the case in a b-grade movie, this building holds a very dark secret of its own down in its cave of a basement.
As it turns out the reason this building is so well kitted out is because it used to be a military seat of operation where they were carrying out some experiments that may not have been entirely ethical. In an attempt to make the ultimate soldier the scientists based here were trying to make it so that their human guinea pigs could synthesise their own amino acids, meaning that the soldiers would no longer be reliant on a food source because they could make everything they needed in their own bodies. The side effect of this little experiment is a hideously deformed and violently territorial creature living in the basement who occasionally pops up through the air conditioning ducts to attack someone with its enormous mandibles and razor-sharp, see-through teeth. It doesn’t necessarily seem to want to kill anyone but rather inject them with the same serum it was. It would appear, however, that second-hand monster serum has some troubling side effects of its own and anyone infected starts to blow up like a balloon and ooze blood and bile from everywhere. In a toss-up between that fate or being slowly melted by the acid rain our intrepid little band of deserters needs to find a way to kill the beast before finding the password to the highly advanced computer system and playing a game of Pong.
This movie was shot in 15 days in an abandoned warehouse on a budget of $150 000. Now by 1987 standards that’s not necessarily bad money, but then make a slasher. This movie needed special effects, not some guy in a plastic bug suit and harness suspended from the roof (58 minutes in – take a look).
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Despite the complete collapse of society and acid rain everywhere electrical equipment will remain perfectly functional for decades.
- Having World War III break out in 1992 tragically means that computer technology will never have the chance to develop to any useful stage.
- “Let’s shag it!” is not a good general catch phrase when all you really want is for people to move quickly.
- In troubled times an open air vent will provide some lonely soul with the only answers he’s ever had.
- During troubled times and an imminent attack by mutant rats women just want to have a quick shower.
- A 286 DOS computer requires years of expert training in order to use it properly.
- The armies of our old future will be filled with soldiers who can never hear when danger is coming.