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Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 289: Maniac Cop

Maniac Cop
At least Maniac Cop has a sense of humor

The 1980's were a special time. A B-level actor was president for 8 years, Madonna and Michael Jackson had not yet become complete freaks, and the slasher craze ballooned and then popped. Every writer, director, and studio wanted to have the next Friday The 13th or Halloween. Every holiday got their own slasher film. Almost every profession had a slasher movie whether it was a janitor or a teacher or a doctor. By the time the late 80's rolled around, the genre had already run it's course, and had settled back to a more even level in terms of volume and quality. One also included a young Bruce Campbell.

Maniac Cop is a 1988 slasher starring Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, My Name Is Bruce) as NYPD Officer Jack Forrest and Tom Atkins (The Fog, Creepshow) as Detective Frank McCrae. A man in a police officers uniform begins killing civilians in brutal fashion, sending the city into a panic. Detective McCrae begins investigating the case, discovering that the killer is incredibly strong. Jack Forrest is a young officer that constantly works the night shift. Jack has a strained relationship with his wife Ellen, who suspects that he might actually be the cop behind all the murders. One night, she follows him to a seedy hotel only to find him in bed with Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon, Airplane II, The Ambulance) a fellow police officer. Ellen pulls a gun on Jack, but leaves the hotel in a hurry. She is murdered by the maniac cop and Jack is taken into custody. Things don't add up and McCrae continues the investigation, leading him to a former police officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar, Tango & Cash, The Summoned). Cordell was a hero police officer, known for shooting first and asking questions later. When he started going after the mob, Mayor Killium (Ken Lerner, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Series, The Running Man) set Cordell up and had him sent to prison. In prison, he was viciously stabbed all over his body and was pronounced dead. Jack discovers that Cordell did in fact survive and escaped prisoner, thanks to the help of a female police officer in love with him. Will McCrae and Jack be able to stop this maniac cop form continuing his reign of terror?

"I am the law!"

My initial reason for watching Maniac Cop was because I believed that Bruce Campbell was going to be the villain. Most movies I have seen starring Campbell have portrayed him as the hero and I was a little disappointed that he wasn't the maniac cop. Having a police officer as your killer is certainly different, but unfortunately, the movie does not continue with a trend of originality. They portray Cordell as a nigh-invulnerable killing machine, similar to Jason from Friday The 13th. We see him shot in the chest several times and Theresa even claims to have shot him in the head twice. There is no reason to explain why this is. Is he magical? Is she just an incredibly terrible shot with horrible eyesight? If they wanted to go the supernatural route, they should have made it clear how this happened and perhaps give him more abilities. If they wanted the story based in reality, just say he had a bullet-proof vest on or something to that effect. The character is stuck somewhere in the middle and just left me confused. I will say that the movie did a great job of hiding the killer's face for almost the entire movie. It allowed the audience to portray whatever image they wanted onto the killer, similar to what John Carpenter did with Michael Myers in Halloween. When they finally showed Cordell's face, it was nothing scary or shocking. They clearly didn't have Tom Savini doing makeup.

There is a decent amount of violence in Maniac Cop with some fun and creative kills. There is some blood, but not much in the way of gore or extreme violence. The problem is that they kind of forget about the slashing in the middle of the film. The movie focuses way too much on the actual investigation instead of the horror. In the beginning we have a few kills and at the end we have a lot. What about the middle? Instead, we get a rather bland and typical cop drama. Tom Atkins is the quintessential police officer, playing one in multiple movies. Bruce Campbell is good in his role, but doesn't get to flash any of his trademark charm and wit. The rest of the cast is fine, but the problem lies with the story, not the production. Nothing unexpected happens and the story runs it's course exactly as how you would expect. 

"Boomstick says what?"

Maniac Cop is a decent slasher in the beginning and end, but is lost in a mediocre mystery for most of the time. The villain had a lot of potential, but the movie doesn't deliver. It's never clear how he is so strong or why bullets don't hurt him. I really would have liked Bruce Campbell in the role because the added personality would have made the movie far more interesting. There are some good scenes of violence, but they're mostly lumped together, leaving long stretches free of killing. Maniac Cop had a lot of potential, but missed too many opportunities. It's still watchable and has a few good moments, but it's nothing special.


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