Before we even start on its content a big nod to the classic tagline: “You have the right to remain silent forever”. That isn’t where the film’s potential ends either.
‘Maniac Cop’, directed by William Lustig of ‘Maniac’ fame, stars Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins amongst some other strong credentials, hell even B-Movie king Larry Cohen wrote it; however, all said and done, I struggle to really say that the 1988 stalk and slash movie hits the mark quite as it should.
‘Maniac Cop’ is one of those films which should have been better, but actually is better than it had any right to be considering the clear lack of interest in its creativity beyond the initial idea and tagline. From a standpoint of production value and action orientated set pieces its actually pretty impressive, hell there’s even a car chase at the endbut consider its horror/slasher concept and real estate and its pretty much just phoned in.
The plot, well, the title pretty much says it all, it’s a film about pretty much just that a, 7ft killer cop. The characters all do their part in helping to track the killer down, but its plot so lacking development that despite convincing performances, the character actions are pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme. This wouldn’t be so bad if ‘Maniac Cop’ had followed in the footsteps of Lustig’s earlier work ‘Maniac’ and just been flat out brutal, violent and ‘shotgun blast to the head’ gory.
Remarkably, it isn’t; in fact, aside from a couple of scenes, its relatively bloodless.
Whilst I’m unsure whether this film opted for a more thriller/mystery orientated approach, but the lack of any decent kills is sorely missed; hell, this late in the decade, its about all a slasher film could really do to make an imprint the (very) familiar formula.
From a technical perspective, the films cinematography is very typical of the genre in that the video is grainy and often dark, which is probably more to do with budget than intended effect, and the murder scenes often centre around obscured views of the killer and close ups of weapons (again was this tying to tap in on the more giallo/thriller side of things?).
In the case of other slashers, whose main twists tend to come from the revealing the identity of the killer, maniac cop need not have bothered as the killer is not built into any back story/relationship with the main characters and when you actually know anything about the killer you know are shown straight away who he is.
On the other hand, its seldom boring. The performances are just too strong, and there are plentiful of nice ‘on location shots’ and action set pieces to keep things moving along.
Overall, I see William Lustig, Bruce Campbell and that aforementioned tagline, and I think gore, plain and simple. But that is really what is missing. The deaths are plentiful, but after about 3 minutes of stalking the fatality is often lack lustre, some blood sprays, but most often we have to settle for blood on the blade or worse, boring old broken neck! Sure, the violence is there, often quite brutal, and there is some mild gore just not nearly enough to make this film as good as it should have been.
Maybe I just expected better, and its production value and talent see it sit above the poorest examples from the era, but I just can’t help feeling it missed its full potential; admittedly, its probably more accessible that ‘Maniac’ though.