I love 1980s cinema. It was the perfect storm of special effects and the feeling that anything was possible in film. And, of course, it gave us the low budget, schlocky delights of films like Maniac Cop. A cheesy plot compliments an equally cheesy soundtrack. And it’s AWESOME.
What’s not to like about a killer cop who has a MASSIVE chin? No, really – he does have a massive chin. But who is he? And why is he intent on killing people left, right and centre? You will find out soon enough.
But not by me – you should go and watch it for yourself. This is a spoiler free zone, remember?
On the subject of big chins, there’s a lot of bait and switch thinking from the start. One of the potential suspects – okay, the only other suspect – is Mr Chin himself, Bruce Campbell. Bruce is always a welcome addition to any project – as is Sam Raimi, who shows up in a cameo as a news reporter.
It goes without saying for the film as a whole that it’s standard slasher killer fare. A cop, Frank Macrae (Tom Atkins) is on the maniac’s trail. Meanwhile Jack (Bruce Campbell) and Theresa (Laurene Landon), try to clear his name following the murder of his wife. In doing so, they hope to reveal the true identity of the killer cop.
An interesting twist is that the main character is a cop cheating on his wife. And, just as interesting, that we are supposed to empathise with him. That comes easy because it’s Bruce Campbell. It’s different and somewhat refreshing for the genre. More so because there are no hormonal teenagers in sight.
Maniac Cop represents some of the best you would expect from a 1980s horror movie. There is a mysterious killer, an enjoyable soundtrack, great performances and an enjoyably cheesy tone. It also follows the perfect 80s formula of being a story you can tell in half the time. And yet it only runs for 85 minutes. Even so, it does start to flag in the final quarter as the deaths slow down and the pace along with it.
And the script doesn’t always offer a decent explanation for what’s going on. You can go one of two ways. Leave it a mystery or try and explain what made this person who they are, why they kill and so on. Maniac Cop tries to do this but falls short when providing its revelations. It’s like all the worst parts of the Friday The 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises combined to form this big bad.
This is a minor complaint though. For the most part Maniac Cop an enjoyable romp that doesn’t need to be taken seriously. Embrace the cheesy, over the top nature of it and you’ll have a blast.