Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 283rd review!
I get a kick out of how Netflix categorizes its movies. In the “Horror Classics” section, I found Silent Hill: Revelation. Now, I’m one of the biggest Silent Hill fans you’re ever going to meet. I drop, “There was a HOLE here. It’s gone now,” references to unsuspecting people more times than what polite society would consider normal. But that movie was pretty bad and in no galaxy should it be considered a classic. Although I did think that mannequin monster was pretty cool. I have no way to tie this tangent together, so here’s tonight’s movie. It’s...
Maniac Cop (1988). Shudder
Before I get into the actual review, let me start by getting this out of the way early, I did NOT choose this movie out of any political motivation or anything like that. I chose it because I’m a big fan of 80’s slashers, I’d been waiting for it to come to a streaming service for forever, and I love the leads. With that said, let’s begin.
The movie starts with a mugging. Two young punks corner a woman leaving a bar. While trying to get her purse, she manages to fight them off and a chase ensues. Thinking she’s found safety, she runs up to a member of the NYPD who then breaks her neck with his bare hands, much to the horror of the muggers.
The next morning the perps are brought into the police station and they claim it was an officer who did it. Of course no one believes them except for the grizzled old cop Frank McCrae, played by, my man, Tom Atkins. He believes the muggers based on the injuries the woman suffered. Naturally no one believes him either and he’s given the order to keep it hush hush from the media.
Of course, he goes right to a reporter and spills the whole thing. Working in news, I love seeing how different movies and shows think news works. Her station is literally called “News Channel.” That combined with the words they use during their news reports. Yeesh!
From there we get into your typical 80’s slasher fare. Bodies keep dropping as our heroes desperately try to find the killer and stop them. The movie slowly unravels the mystery of who is behind it all and why he’s attacking random, innocent people but the answers aren’t anything special. I mean, the movie is called Maniac Cop, so you know what you’re getting into. It’s kind of weird because it takes about halfway through that they finally get around to introducing Bruce Campbell (yay!) and then it switches and he becomes the focus.
There’s a bit more in the plot going on, but I’m hesitant to discuss it because I’ll venture into spoiler territory. It eventually gets explained who and what the baddie is, but it doesn’t fit. The people he’s murdering are innocent, in the first murder he ignores the muggers and lets them go while killing the woman. They try to explain it a tiny bit with a throwaway line about him now hating everything he loved, but that doesn’t jive with what we’ve seen of this guy and why he started killing. I mean, he was a super cop in life and his downfall had nothing to do with Joe Citizen.
I like the premise, but it’s just not a very good movie. The movie touches on the paranoia this killer creates but doesn’t really follow up on it. The public is now terrified of police, one officer being shot in the head by a woman with car troubles and police are now worried about every interaction, but it more or less just serves as wallpaper because outside of a cringey Man on the Street (MOS) story from a reporter, the whole storyline gets dropped. I think if the movie would have explored the paranoia more, it would have been better for it.
I feel like I’m being too harsh because there’s worse ways to kill some time. I mean, it’s definitely bad, but it’s a fun bad for the most part. The kills are bloody and silly and there’s one death that would be all kinds of horrible. I liked the backstory behind the bad guy, and appreciated how Campbell and Atkins did their best to make this movie work.
It’s gotten a bit of a cult following since it came out and I can see why, but I don’t see myself ever watching it again or checking out the sequels. I’m curious about the second one because Bruce Campbell is in it again despite him admitting he only took the job for the original because he needed the work, but I’m not curious enough to actually watch it.
Some things I liked it, it’s short, cruising by at a brisk 85 minutes, so it doesn’t drag on much outside of a very long, uneventful car chase. The two leads are fun to follow around and the action is pretty good. The “Maniac Cop” is intimidating and his story isn’t bad even if it doesn’t make too much sense. The gritty, run down backdrop of a New York City in the 80’s is a good setting for this type of movie although you have to suspend your disbelief because there’s quite a few moments where the streets are completely abandoned. I have to say the gag of someone running from a murderer only to be met with indifference from a New Yorker is something that will always get a laugh out of me.
5.5 Dr. Chainsaws!
Maniac Cop on Shudder
Directed by William Lustig 1988 R English 85min
Two New York policemen (Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell) and a policewoman (Laurene Landon) search for a killer in uniform who should be dead. Contains violence and gore. Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Robert Z'Dar, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree