Trying to find a cult movie with good production value is like attempting to find a cute girl at a D & D game. They exist, and thanks to the Internet they’re easier to find, but they’re still extremely rare.
Maniac Cop is that girl. She laughs at your Bag of holding jokes. She thinks your crusty Amazing Joy Buzzards shirt is cool. But most of all she’s got Bruce Campbell in her. Well, that last part didn’t really work, but Maniac Cop the film has Bruce Campbell it in. And it’s amazing.
The film was released in 1988, when exactly three people cared about Bruce Campbell. And two of them had the last name Raimi.
The film revolves around a delightfully spook police officer murdering everything that has the audacity to breathe in his general vicinity. The film stars, as previously mentioned, Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins and Robert Z’dar.
The film follows Detective Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) on his quest to solve who the real maniac cop is after the arrest of the innocent young cop Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell). The film moves along at a decent pace and even builds momentum and suspense quite effectively when it puts its mind to it.
The weirdest part of Maniac Cop isn’t its slightly otherworld cop-hating premise. It’s the fact that there’s money on the screen. Not Michael Bay money, but I think that’s a good thing. The film feels real, pulsing and raw. The entire flick is an irritated nerve keeping you up at night. It feels as though every person in the film is on the brink of something… I’m not exactly sure what, but the brink of something.
The acting is top notch, the script is well constructed-ish, and the special effects and homicidal maimings are inventive.
The film also does the we’re-not-gonna-show-you-the-monster-and-then-in-the-last-fiveminutes-we’re-gonna-show-you-the-monster thing really well. It’s not draw dropping only due to the fact that you can see that it’s a man dressed as a cop killing everyone. The reveal of Robert Z’Dar’s Matt Cordell is impressive though. Nothing beats practical effects, man. I’m telling you. Even though it’s just a latex appliance it’s still way cooler than any CGI reveal.
The film is a strangely straightforward execution of its premise. I say ‘strangely’ only because it has such high production values but such low cultural currency and relevancy that one would assume that its reasons for not connecting with the broader public would be it’s lack of …crazy, for a lack better word. But this thing spawned a franchise. Three films. That all have reasonably high production values.
How is it possible that three solidly constructed films, one of which stars the grand daddy of modern cult films, that all have high production values don’t make a permanent impression on the nerd movie landscape? I’m not entirely sure.
This is where I’ll leave you. With a challenge. If you’ve seen Maniac Cop and you love it, which you do because to see Maniac Cop is to behold a cultural diamond in the rough, then go out today and tell someone you know about it. This move has been out for 25 years and not enough people sing its praises. Go out and preach the gospel according to the-dude-who-likes-Maniac Cop.