Maniac Cop (Action, Crime, Horror, 1988) (18) D: William Lustig W: P: C: tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, Robert Z’Dar, Sheree North,. 1h 253. USA.
Synopsis : Innocent people are being brutally murdered on the streets of New York City by a uniformed police officer. As the death toll rises and City Hall attempts a cover-up, Frank McCrae heads the investigation. A young cop, Jack Forrest, finds himself under arrest as the chief suspects, having been a victim of a set up by the real killer and a mysterious woman phone-caller. Forrest, his girlfriends and McCrae set out to solve the puzzle before the Maniac Cop can strike again.
TAGLINE : You have the right to remain silent. Forever.
A betrayed cop on a killing rampage! what could be more fun? This almost goofy comic style slasher fits in a fair deal of killings while maintaining an action movie feel throughout.
The ultimate twisted revenge story apparently not inspired by any real events but let’s face it, cops get charged for murder all the time so it’s hard to know if it was based on something true. As with other slasher icons, the killers character turns out to be the person you’d least expect, but in this case the person you’d normally go to for help. When you can’t go to the police for help who can you trust? and its this dilemma that actually fuels the back story of city hall corruption in a style akin to Robocop (1987) In a warped good cop (but really a bad guy) vs a good cop (who was turned bad by the system), the moral compass is constantly spinning in this kill spree, shot primarily at night.
A crazed cop is on the loose and killing innocent people, the only man to stop him is the ashamed Officer Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) and an aged tough cop Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) Starting out with a brutal murder of a woman looking for help from a police officer the film takes an instant turn to the domestic side introducing the troubled life of Bruce and his wife, as soon as he’s implicated in her “murder” everything heats up with him trying to prove his innocence and trying to track down the real killer.
There really is no panache to this movie, it doesn’t have a style per say, it’s just another excuse for mindless gorefest and that’s part of it’s charm, it’s unashamed fun for gore fiends. While you can’t ignore that the basis of the film is just to have an excuse to kill a lot of people on the streets of New York, and it’s obvious revenge threads, you can’t help but look at the underlying corruption in the police and political force behind the police throughout the movie. A manipulation of the media in an attempt the control the public is quite prevalent.
Without trying to give away too much about the plot for those who haven’t seen the movie I’d like to just talk about the Maniac Cop, hopefully this won’t kill the movie for you but it’s hard not to talk about Robert D’Zar’s massive size and unusual looks helps him create a hybrid between Frankenstein and Terminator. His hulking size and inability to feel both physically and emotionally he’s an unstoppable force. It’s quite unique for this movie, and normally a lot of prosthetics would be required but in this case it’s just carefree having such an unusual actor at the helm.
Most of the murders are set at night where the Maniac really gets to freak people out with a body count of 19, the maniac certainly does find his groove. Sadly for this project Campbell is a little more restrained and doesn’t have his usual quirkiness, albeit it’s not in a similar situation, there are no demons or chainsaws. It’s still interesting to see him in a different character, thus proving he can act. But he’s only one of 3 very strong main characters and if he did show up as Ash then he’d steal the show.
Boasting two of the most infamous chins in low budget buckets of blood horror and action films, Bruce Campbell was still riding on the cult success of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, and was starting to make a name for himself, he wasn’t as refined a chin as we know him today but that wild eyed raven hair electric character creeps in at times. Bolstering the film, was the Cherub Chin himself D’Zar (RIP) who’s unusual features made him a perfect candidate for this emotionless monster.
Director William Lustig was on a massive wave of slasher epics, and Maniac Cop comes a short while after Maniac (1980) and Vigilante (1983), so the refining of this psycho on a kill spree was getting a good finishing polish in this film.
It’s always interesting to see a movie like this, that questions our perspectives. We see a man in a police uniform and instantly trust him, no questions asked. Anyone can wear a uniform but how cautious are we? Even though Campbell was cheating on his wife and runs off with his lover, he’s still seen as the good guy which is so bizarre!! If this was the Jerry Springer show then he’d be getting booo’d and his girlfriend getting her Jerry Beads. As I said the moral compass is all shifty here.
Surprisingly it does have a decent story line, it’s not plausible in anyway but there is a full explanation of how the killer was created and as much as no one believes it, it did make for a great bloody prison shower scene without a shred of gayness.
The film works as a silly B grade movie with some thrill kills and some action scenes chucked in for good measure, no one was fully on their best for this film but it’s still cherished by fans because it just doesn’t care and gets on with telling this crazy comic book style tale, it’s very much horror for horror sake. While connections can be made between this and Halloween for example, why not, they are both slasher and probably appeal to the same audience.
V: While the film is loved and hated like Marmite, I think some take it too seriously. While I accept that it’s not the best written movie and it has the typical plot holes of any slasher, it does deliver enough of a story to put he kills together. I adore it for all the wrong reasons, it’s got in a few of my favourite actors, a healthy levels of kills and is just so much fun to watch, it’s not academic or anything amazing if you really wanted to see a deep in depth movie, keep on looking, if like me you’ve got a childish wicked side you’ll love it as much as i do.
Rating – 7/10
R: Maniac (1980), Maniac Cop 2 (1990),Vigilante (1983), The Burning (1981)