“Maniac Cop” is the perfect St. Patty’s Day thriller


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

If this poster doesn’t give you chills, I’m not sure what will.

Will Schneider, Reporter

With a title like this, what could go wrong? As it turns out, it’s a lot better than what I expected from such a blatant B-movie.

Made at the tail end of the eighties slasher boom, “Maniac Cop” (1988) stands as one of the better movies of its time. It’s a fun, little movie concerning (what else?) a serial killer in a police uniform, and all of the wacky misadventures and havoc that combination causes on the street of New York City.


There’s a lot done well, plenty that’s done “so bad it’s good,” and relatively little to truly dislike about it.


The movie’s strongest point is without a doubt the solo camerawork and lighting. Director William Lusting did a great job making the title slasher seem intimidating. He is always encased in shadows, and the camerawork makes him seem larger than he already is, even thought his actor, Robert Z’dar, is by no means small. It makes someone who is by all accounts just a dumb brute in a police uniform feel far more intimidating than they should be.


The lighting is also a treat, with many of the night scenes feeling noir-ish at points. That, coupled with the general grimy and mean feel the city has, makes for a nice, dark atmosphere. To reiterate, it feels like a noir at times.


The acting in the movie is decent, too. There is not really much to talk about here, but stars Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, and Robert Z’dar do their jobs well. The characters they play are decently written and far more interesting than normal horror protagonists, with most of them being crude, rough cops.


Bruce Campbell’s character even cheats on his wife with Laurene Landon’s character, further adding to the dynamic. Not only is there slightly more depth to them than normal horror protagonists, but the positions they’re in are also more interesting ones, and Campbell is trying to clear his name after being mistaken for the killer. And for a sub-genre where police are nowhere to be seen, a movie about police actively looking for a slasher-type killer was something I wish I had seen more of.

A big problem with horror movies, even slasher movies, is the pace. A lot of times, horror movies like to take their time. If the movie is old, the the slow pace can help build up an extremely creepy atmosphere and become very tense, to the point of nerve wracking, which horror movies are pretty much designed for.


If these are done badly, it can create a dull movie that feels like it drags on. As the movie’s characters are done decently well, this won’t be too much of a problem, but the maniac cop is such a cool character you want to see him for far more than you reasonably should.


That being said, the movie in general has a decent pace to it, and it never feels like it’s dwelling on anything too much. For the most part, it’s a good thing, as it allows for a lot of fun scenes with the maniac cop. You never see him too little. However, this causes the movies biggest problem as well: the tone.


The movie seems stuck in a weird middle ground of being a serious horror film or a goofy B-movie. While the title make it seem like the latter, there are many scenes that take themselves extremely seriously to the point of being confusing, such as a scene about the maniac cop being brutalized in prison.


This is the same movie with a police scene in broad daylight with an undead cop, which sounds more like an SNL sketch setup than the climax of a slasher movie. I guess they were trying the horror comedy route, but then the aforementioned serious scenes show their face again. And once again, I am confused.

The movie seems to try being more serious than it can or has to be. It could work if the movie was more or less a standard slasher with a supernatural twist, but we get nothing like that. It’s at the same time too serious to be taken seriously, and at sometimes it’s too serious to be that much fun.

Aside from the odd tonal thing, “Maniac Cop” still stands as a fun movie for the St. Patrick’s Day season. (The crimes takes place on St. Patrick’s Day, and there is no way I am watching any of the Leprechaun movies after the first two. Sadly, I have neither). It a neat little romp to watch, though not without its flaws.


The movie is easy to find on all formats and even has two sequels. Here’s to hoping “Maniac Cop 2” fixes the problems the first had.