Thursday, June 5, 2014

Maniac Cop (1988) Review:

The decade of the 1980s was filled with production companies that made attempts to knock off or even originally make their own horror franchise that revolved around a nortiously iconic slasher villain. Most audiences at least by the late 80s had witnessed several villains in the vein of some type of knife wielding psychopath who kills innocent people. It was "the in" thing and audiences just couldn't get enough of their blood, thus the genre was began to become overused. However, there were films that tried to give a more distinctive edge in their slasher villains. The original Child's Play (1988) was one of them. It's curious though to why people seem to forget this piece by director William Lustig who also directed his more well known piece, Maniac (1980). Lustig sure seems to have a liking to the word "maniac" in his film titles.

Stuck in another horror picture Ash?
Maniac Cop (1988) is another one of those slasher knock-off films that borrows familiar concepts from previous famous slasher franchises, and then adds a little of its own originality to it. For most, as long as it doesn't completely rip off a franchise entirely or blatantly, it's fairly acceptable. Not original, but acceptable to a point. This is what Lustig does here as a final product, although I'm not sure if that was his intent. When a suspect only described as a police officer of the local force murders random citizens, people begin to panic. Of course, why shouldn't they? The police are supposed to protect not randomly slaughter. The writer behind the story is Larry Cohen, better known for writing Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth (2002). The elements that Cohen takes are the invincibility and the silent nature of the maniac cop; which resembles that of Michael Myers from Halloween (1978). Other than that, the idea is original.

However, this is also the weakpoint of the story. How on earth does this character survive so many fatal injuries? At least for Michael Myers, it was at least described as if Myers was possessed by a demon, but here, nothing's given. Then again, the plot plays out like a crime mystery, which helps pull in its audience instead of just continuing to show mindless killing. There are also numerous cult celebrities like Tom Atkins as a tough detective (like many other roles he's played), Bruce Campbell, William Smith, Richard Roundtree (who all play cops) and even Sam Raimi has a brief cameo. All of which give respective performances. Even the female leads are convincing. Playing the villain is Robert Z'Dar, an actor with a unique chin / jaw line.

It's about time someone finally got the idea that he could make a memorable character, which he does. Sure he's no Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees or Freddy Krueger, but he does stand out. Give him credit for that. Some of his kill scenes are even inventive that I'm not sure many villains have done before. The gore is also there. It's not gross out, but there are various disturbing images, like the maniac cop's face. Z'Dar can also perform action sequences decently. I was amazed to view a car chase scene in a horror film, it almost felt like an action movie; viewers should still enjoy it though. This goes hand in hand with David Kern's editing because the flow of the story has good pacing.

Stay out this guys way.....but if you didn't know?
The two cinematographers who worked on the film did an ok job. It wasn't bad but it would've been nice to see a little more daytime scenes considering there wasn't any visual style to the film. Producing the music was Jay Chattaway. There was a theme in the film but it's difficult to say what it represented. It was a long drawn out brassy ominous sound, which was appropriate for its tone though. Even the chase scene had adrenaline pumped beats in it, but it lacked development in any way that didn’t sound anywhere close to being a memorable score. All around this is probably one of those underlooked slasher films that seems silly on the surface but actually is entertaining when given a watch.

Like many other films that focused on psychotic blade wielding crazies, the reasoning behind certain facts just aren't revealed. Watch it for its plot dealing with mystery, its distinguished cult cast and unique villain.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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