New Horror Releases: The Neon Dead (2016) - Reviewed

Wild Eye Releasing’s newest movie is The Neon Dead, available on DVD and Digital HD in September. It’s a hard one to really peg down, as the marketing is clearly trying to take advantage of Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon and the colors that are often associated with Italian horror and giallos from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Essentially it’s a horror-comedy that could be described as a weird hybrid of The Ghostbusters, Clerks, Evil Dead, Suspiria, Planet of the Vampires, and a Goosebumps episode. 

The story involves a woman who inherits a family home that is inhabited by a host of paranormal monsters and their demon leader. She calls upon a pair of paranormal exterminators to handle the problem, who supplement their income by working at a grocery store.

While I’m calling this a horror-comedy, it’s more comedy than horror because the horror elements never get into a truly frightening area. You could easily say this is geared towards kids, as most kids may not even find the horror scary in it. The special effects range from being very bad Halloween store props, to some nicely done makeup work. Most of it is things that you would expect to see at a haunted house. The makeup of the voodoo characters and the main bad guy look interesting when combined with the lighting that is used. There is also some stop motion animation. All of this you may find to be lovingly camp and a tribute to 1950’s drive-in cinema or shockingly bad. It really is going to depend on your personal tastes.

The comparison to Clerks and Evil Dead has to do with the paranormal team, which resemble the duo of Dante and Randall from Clerks. They work in a grocery store and kind of have that same dynamic, with one being a wisecracking jerk that just happens to work in the video rental department. This character shares similar qualities to Ash from Evil Dead, playing the bumbling jackass hero that gets tossed around and beaten up but still manages to save the day. The actors that play this duo are decent, but the picture probably could have been better off with a pair that had better range and comedic timing. The lead actress Marie Barker shines in her performance, she is very attractive and delivered on displaying fear and then being powerful at times. She exhibited what you would expect from a typical “final girl” in the horror genre and hopefully we will be seeing more of her soon.

The thing that makes this movie stand out is the stunning cinematography and wonderful use of shadows and bright colors, which are reminiscent of some of the work of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and some of the other classic Italian horror and giallo films. The director and cinematographer consistently deliver throughout this one; there is always a great mixture of light on one side of the actor and shadows on the other, or hues of red on one side and green on the other.

Despite the superb colors and a look that harkens back to some cinematic greats, this ends up suffering from a weak script that lacks a true comedic punch. It’s meant to be more comedy than horror and ends up somewhat failing on the comedic end. Missing are those great one liners and hilarious moments that make some of the other films previously listed so memorable. 

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-Raul Vantassle