Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: Larry Cohen
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Tom Atkins and Robert Z'Dar
Reviewed by: Josh G.
ďHeíll kill again. He enjoys killing.Ē
I have the right to remain silent, but I simply cannot. I feel the need to shout it from the rooftops: ĎManiac Cop is here and well!í Though not really exploiting the fact, this killer cop slasher flick is one of few horrors set on Saint Patrickís Day. Thereís a parade to prove it. Donít forget, it also stars the legendary Tom Atkins, as well as genre favorite, Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead series). As if that wasnít enough, it was followed by two sequels in 1990 and 1993. What happens when one of the few people you can truly trust Ė the authorities; our bodyguards, the police Ė loses their sanity? A killing machine is on the loose, and he goes by the name of Matt Cordell!
Returning home, walking down the streets of New York, Cassie Phillips (Jill Gatsby) finds herself being chased by two muggers. She runs away to the safety of a mysterious man dressed in a police uniform and white gloves. But heís no friend. The cop strangles Cassie, crushing her neck. The following night, the lunatic law pusher slices an innocent man, sending him crashing to his car window. The murderer doesnít stop there. He once again finds another man, suffocating him in a pile of cement. By this point, the city has learned about the situation, and everybody is afraid to even look at a cop. Luckily, Frank McCrae (Atkins) is on the case, and he wonít rest until heís figured out just what is going on.
Ellen Forrest (Victoria Catlin) is a nervous wife. Her husband Jack (Campbell), also a policeman, is always staying out late, leading Ellen to suspect that he may be committing the crimes. She follows Jack one night to a motel, wherein she finds his co-worker, Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) in bed with him. She runs out in disbelief at what she has just witnessed, feeling that the worst is all over, but the killer cop pulls her aside into his vehicle and slashes her throat. The next morning, Ellen is found dead in the same motel room that Jack and Theresa were in. Jack is quick to be accused once the motives begin to make sense: the weak marriage and the exposed colleague relationship. Itís obvious what has happened. Jack has been framed! With the help of his lover and Mr. McCrae, the trio attempt to clear his name of all charges, and put an end to the injustice act of killing. After a confrontation, they find out the maniacís name. Ex-cop Matt Cordell (Robert ZíDar), who went away for killing unnecessarily, wants to kill the entire police force, plus the mayor. Heís filled with hate and revenge. Thereís only one problem. Matt Cordell is supposed to be dead!
The creepiest, not to mention the most effective part of Maniac Cop is its scoring. While the opening credits are alright, and the tense orchestra theme surrounding Cassieís chase is to die for, itís the scene such as the back story that is equipped with such a haunting flavor. We learn about how Matt supposedly died in prison after being attacked by the very men he put away. Thereís a whistling tune that still to this day creeps the hell out of me. Itís certainly one of the scariest pieces of music Iíve ever heard on film. It adds to Cordellís character, who is already fairly developed to begin with. Although we donít see his face for the most part (itís usually shadowed; an excellent use of hidden identity) we know that he is extremely strong and has a straightforward mission. Heís intelligent too, actually planning out a frame method, as well as turning the civilians against the force. Theyíre all paranoid, and some people end up taking action on the cops for fear of their lives being taken away.
I love the detective scenarios. More and more of the story is released to the audience as both we, and the characters, start to figure out whose doing what, with whom, where, why, and how. Information is drilled out of people, and the movie takes a turn for the better, becoming a bit of a crime drama. For the very first half of the flick, Tom Atkins is our hero, searching for answers, sneaking around, and doing most of the dirty work. As the clips roll by, itís Campbell and his sidekick Landon as the duo with a purpose to end the inhumanity of the city streets. Not everybody is what they at first appear to be. After all, our leader of this inventive slice-and-dice is a cheater, and no one is truly sinless. Then again, innocent until proven guilty.
People are stabbed, strangled, mutilated, tossed around, suffocated, sliced, hung, bashed, and even shot in this extremely violent thrill ride. Itís not tremendously gory, but thereís a fair bit of the red stuff splashed around neatly, and it seems as though the killer gets it the roughest. Thereís a good car chase which brightens the road to the climax scene. The only thing Iím not one hundred percent sure of in Maniac Cop is the use of immense strength given to Matt. Yes, heís a mighty man, but one close call with death shouldnít be enough to guarantee a bullet proof chest and head. Synapse released a special edition DVD of this with its trailer, multiple TV spots, additional scenes, featurettes, and an audio commentary with all the major men who made this possible; Campbell, Cohen, Lustig (director of 1980's Maniac) and Jay Chattaway, the composer of that eerie soundtrack. The acting is great, the theme is good, the writing is above average, and we have Laurene Landon pretending to be a hooker. You listen here. Iíll make this ticket just go away, as long as you do whatís good for you. Yes Sir. Yes Ma'am. Buy it!
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