Neon Nightmares: L.A. Thrillers of the 1980s

BearManor Media. Sept. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9798887712024. pap. $32. FILM
Los Angeles in the 1980s was a cinephile’s dream, with studios making the most of the contrast between the city’s coastal paradise and gritty streets. LA was the go-to locale for thrillers, ranging from big-budget blockbusters to sleazy direct-to-video offerings. Terrorists took over Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard, while a Terminator stalked Sarah Connor, and Charles Bronson’s vigilante character moved to Los Angeles in Death Wish II. Sykes (Terror in the Desert) offers a comprehensive survey of thrillers filmed on location in LA and set in the present—so no Blade Runner—grouped under headings such as “Buddy Cops” and “Cautionary Tales.” The book summarizes and dissects a variety of titles offering insightful commentary and revealing tremendous, in-depth knowledge and passion for film. The author also analyzes which movies simply use the Hollywood sign as a backdrop versus those that weave many of the area’s landmarks into their cinematographic tapestry. The book excels at providing just enough plot summary to spur a discussion of the movie’s effectiveness, and the author is equally at home discussing made-for-TV rarities as he is spotlighting major film franchises.
VERDICT While of obvious regional interest, this book’s informed and lively writing will play well everywhere.
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