Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10 - You have the right to remain silent... FOREVER!

Maniac Cop (1988)
Director: William Lustig
Format: VHS (4 Front Video)

Robert Z'dar and Bruce Campbell in the same movie? Holy giant chins Batman!

Eight years after his gritty, low-budget slasher Maniac, William Lustig recycled that name, adding Cop to the end of it and... well, that's where the comparison ends. Maniac Cop is bigger budget, more polished and has more in common with Hollywood slasher series like Nightmare on Elm St and Friday the 13th than Maniac, while at the same time having more of an action slant.

The titular Maniac Cop (Z'dar, SOULTAKER) is a hulking specimen in a police uniform who walks the streets of New York killing innocent people. Another cop, played by Campbell (EVIL DEAD), is suspected of the crimes and along with a female cop love interest and a grizzled lieutenant has to fight to prove his innocence.

The killer is from the Jason Vorhees/Michael Myers school of horror movie villains - a hulking guy who never moves at anything but a snail's pace and is seemingly invincible. He even gets an ambiguous ending, setting up a sequel. However, one point of difference Lustig gets to play with is the fact his killer is a cop, the very person the victims are meant to be able to trust.

Maniac Cop also has more humor than most of the movies of its ilk, but that's hardly surprising when you see it was written by Larry Cohen. If you've seen any of the movies he has directed and/or written, like The Stuff and It's Alive, you know that he always operates with an undercurrent of humor. One of my favourite kills in this movie has a guy suffocating as his face is pushed into wet concrete. The next morning the police are there removing him with a jackhammer.

The biggest asset of Maniac Cop is its cast. Campbell is always entertaining, and plays it straighter here than in the Evil Dead movies. His support cast is an impressive assembly of B-movie veterans - including Tom Atkins (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), Richard Roundtree (SHAFT) and William Smith (PIRANHA), although the later is wasted in a nothing role. Also keep your eyes peeled for an uncredited cameo by Sam Raimi as a news reporter.

My biggest complaint is that this movie lacks a clear protagonist. Is it Campbell or Atkins? Without spoiling the movie, one of them doesn't make it to the end credits, his demise coming rather jarringly.

But overall Maniac Cop is a nice offering from the tail end of the hey day of the 80s slasher - before this kind of movie became completely cliche and almost self-parody - with a great cast.

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