Tag Archives: slasher

Valley of the Overlooked Franchises: Maniac Cop

Yeeeee in a time when trust in the cops not to shoot you is lower than a Madonna chart debut, it’s surprising that they’re remaking it. But until that happens – and also, if ever – let’s revisit the trilogy of original 80s-into-90s thriller-cum-slasher-zombie flicks. Some spoilers follow.

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maniac cop 1988

MANIAC COP

3.5 Stars  1988/18/82m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.”

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Sheree North, Robert Z’Dar.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “You always take a leak with a gun in your hand? That’s a good way to blow your balls off!”


RoboCopSumurai CopBeverly Hills Cop, Kindergarten CopPsycho Cop and Maniac Cop – sure were a lot of ‘Something Cop’ movies around in the mid-80s-to-early-90s. While most of these garnered a following – maybe not Psycho Cop - and several generated sequels of their own, Maniac Cop is a strange venture, a weird fusion of ideas from action thrillers with some voodoo-slasher shit mixed in too.

Starting as so many serial killer films have, a young woman is walking home alone in New York City, tormented by some thugs, she runs into a uniformed cop – BUT THEN HE KILLS HER! The thugs are the only witnesses but nobody believes them. Soon after, a guy is pushed face down into drying cement and a driver slashed to death over a traffic violation – all in the first twelve minutes.

New York is in the throes of terror – which of the boys in blue has turned to slaying the residents? Grizzled detective Tom Atkins is on the case and in shepherded into suspecting Bruce Campbell’s beat cop, Jack Forrest, after his wife turns up dead she follows him, having received a series of calls from a mystery voice who keeps telling her that Jack is the killer. Turns out Forrest was just having it away with vice cop Theresa Mallory (Landon). Concerned to clear his name, the two of them investigate the suspicious death of a cop sent to Sing Sing some years earlier and was beaten to death by inmates – or was he?

maniac cop 1988 tom atkins bruce campbell robert z'dar laurene landon

Before Forrest and Mallory can alert the important people to the truth, the undead cop – old-style super-cop Matt ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ Cordell – goes on a rampage around their precinct, even turning on his old flame after she tries to tell him he’s losing control.

Maniac Cop crams a lot into 82 minutes (look for Sam Raimi’s cameo) and is thus never boring. Cordell’s carnage-creating romp around HQ is expertly done; A scene where Malloy is handcuffed to a body; Car chases with slo-mo crashes, and all manner of creative shots and visual cues that serve to keep the horrors of the killer’s face out of shot. A longer cut with more to say on the city-in-fear perspective would be interesting, as that kinda gets left behind once our leading lovers suss out what’s really going on and who has covered up what.

Lustig and Cohen worked together on all three movies and separately have a few slasher credits between them (notably, Lustig directed the nasty Maniac, which also makes the most of NYC as a player), but this is arguably a stand-out. Although rarely bandied in with slasher movies, it has enough elements to include it, even if some of those were traded in for more mainstream concerns in the follow-ups.

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maniac cop 2 1990MANIAC COP 2

3 Stars  1990/18/84m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.” – again??

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Robert Z’Dar, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Lou Bonacki, Paula Trickey, Charles Napier.

Body Count: 32

Laughter Lines: “Shooting Cordell is only good for getting his attention.”


At the end of the first one, it was plainly obvious Matt Cordell wasn’t done with his Make New York Obedient Again missive, and so he returns shortly after his ‘death’ to take revenge, quickly doing away with Forrest and Mallory, who transfer the reigns of hero over to Robert Davi’s Detective McKinney and a department shrink (Christian), who has had a hard time believing Mallory, until she comes face to face with Cordell for herself.

After this solid first act, things begin to wobble as Cordell inexplicably teams up with serial killer-of-strippers Leo Rossi, breaks into Sing Sing to finish off the inmates who ‘murdered’ him, and go on a machine gun spree at police HQ, which explains that sky-high body count.

There are still some great scenes, peaking with Landon and Christian in a cab, attacked by Cordell, who handcuffs the latter to the steering wheels and sends her off down the city streets while he takes care of Mallory for good.

Some fun parts, but it lacks the charm of the first one. Joe Spinnell was originally to play the role taken by Leo Rossi, but died before production began and so the film carries a dedication to him.

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maniac cop 3

MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE

2.5 Stars  1992/18/81m

“The wrong arm of the law is back.”

A.k.a. MC3: Maniac Cop 3

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Robert Z’Dar, Paul Gleason, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Julius Harris, Doug Savant, Bobby Di Cicco.

Body Count: at least 18


A religious oddball resurrects Matt Cordell for no reason, just as a decorated female cop (Becker) is shot during an armed robbery and set up by the media to be a Cordell-like villain. Our maniac cop develops a bit of a crush on her and sets about clearing her name in the only way he knows how – by killing all of those responsible, as well as anyone else who crosses his path.

Davi returns as McKinney, this time joined by Caitlin Dulany as a doctor who just stands around in designer workwear looking pretty and screaming on cue.

More in the mould of a slasher film than the previous entry, but loses itself in a series of plot holes you could navigate the Titanic through. Still, as before, it’s a fun ride with lush production values and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Had so much time not passed, and Lustig not quit the project (his original cut was shorter than an hour!), from that ending we could’ve expected Bride of Maniac Cop to follow in 1994.

Overall blurbs-of-interest: Tom Atkins was in My Bloody Valentine 3D; Bruce Campbell appears briefly in Intruder; Robert Z’Dar was also in Grotesque; Michael Learner was in National Lampoon’s Class Reunion; Leo Rossi was Bud in Halloween II; Robert Forster was in Lustig’s Uncle Sam and also the 1998 Psycho remake; Charles Napier was in Camping Del Terrore and Wacko; Jackie Earle Haley was the new Freddy Krueger; Bobby Di Cicco was in The Baby Doll Murders; William Smith was in Valley of Death.

Express Elevator to Hell… going down

botched 2007

BOTCHED

3 Stars  2007/15/91m

“Russian Mafia, insane hostages, twin serial killers… Ritchie Donovan’s luck has run out.”

Director: Kit Ryan / Writers: Derek Boyle, Eamon Friel, Raymond Friel / Cast: Stephen Dorff, Jaime Murray, Bronagh Gallagher, Geoff Bell, Hugh O’Conor, Jamie Foreman, Russell Smith, Sean Pertwee, Norma Sheahan, Gene Rooney, Edward Duly Baker.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “You have to get the police – various people are trying to kill me.”


Definitely a first for a slasher movie – a virtuoso mix of gore and slapstick comedy, with Dorff as an American grafter caught up in the theft of a sacred Russian artifact. Things descend into chaos when one of his comrades kills somebody and then the thieves and an elevator full of passengers gets stuck on a secret floor in a Moscow building.

Believing the police are on to them, the trio of crap crooks try to bargain their way to freedom with the release of a hostage, who ends up decapitated by a pair of giant shears. It becomes clear that it’s someone other than the cops keeping them at bay – someone with a cache of weaponry, all of it destined to hack, slash, and skewer through the cast.

botched 2007

If this weren’t bad enough, a group of three seemingly nervous religious women decide to take over the situation and turn the tables on the hostages, a jittery journalist joins forces with a wannabe commando security guard, leaving Dorff with a sexy Junior VP (Murray) to go about things the smart way.

The plot makes a few surprising turns as more above the Ivan the Terrible-lite killer and his purpose is revealed, all of it peppered with some great lines, fart gags, and Three Stooges physical comedy, all the while parodying the likes of Hostel with a very British sense of humour. Botched is like nothing you’ve seen before and definitely not for all tastes, but an entertaining hour and half however you cut, hack, or gut it.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sean Pertwee was in Wilderness; Geoff Bell was also in Tormented and Comedown.

…56 years later

lake bodom 2017

LAKE BODOM

3 Stars  2016/85m

A.k.a. Bodom (original title)

Director/Writer: Taneli Mustonen / Writer: Aleksi Hyvärinen / Cast: Nelly Hirst-Gee, Mimosa Willamo, Mikael Gabriel, Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä.

Body Count: 3


I’ve lost count of the number of horror movies that claim to be ‘based on true events’ over the years, which usually means the source event has been evolved by producers thirsty to bend it into a tellable tale, be it Ed Gein into Psycho and/or The Texas Chain Saw MassacreWolf Creek, or even the folklore used in Urban Legend - at least here, the Lake Bodom murders actually occurred.

In 1960, two teen couples were attacked while camping out at the Finnish beauty spot; three of them were fatally injured, the fourth survived to become the prime suspect, eventually arrested 44 years after the fact, and acquitted, meaning the killer is effectively still undetected.

The story fascinates slightly morbid high schooler Atte, who, with his buddy Elias, dupe gal-pals Nora and Ida into accompanying them to a party at a lakeside cabin his family owns, to be joined by other friends the next day. This is all a ruse for him to investigate his theory on what actually happened 56 years earlier (yay! it’s not 5, 10, or 20 years!), and there’s no cabin either. The girls don’t have meltdowns over it, but are peeved. Atte, it seems, wants to reenact the crimes to gauge the likelihood that he’s got it solved.

lake bodom 2016

As darkness falls and they sit about the campfire by the lake, tiny hints suggest that there might be someone else there – was that a flashlight amongst the trees across the lake? Oppressed religious girl, Ida, is still sore over nude photos of her taken when she was drunk at a party and were seen by the entire school – but who took them?

Lake Bodom tosses a twist into the mechanics halfway through (I half-guessed it), but with so long left, what next? A second twist, unlikely as it is, shifts the film into its Wolf Creek gear, with an excellently original tow-truck scene of terror. It doesn’t go to lengths to explain the connection between what’s going on and the 1960 murders, wisely leaving that cloaked in mystery, as the original killings probably always will be.

lake bodom 2016

Beautifully lensed, with shades of Cold Prey alongside echoes of Haute Tension – European slasher films tend to go further with their production quality, rarely turning out shot-on-video cheapies, and stepping away from tying up every loose end. Nevertheless, it feels like the opportunity to make an amazing straight-up teen slasher film is squandered by the plotting, which is undeniably contrived, and leaning towards disproportionately torturing the female characters.

An exercise in brilliant craftsmanship behind the camera, which is worth it alone.

Hair Don’ts II: The Revenge of Aqua Net

Somehow, since last time it’s taken ages to accrue more terrible hairstyles, but here they are:

bad hair final exam 1981

“The Walking Bouffant,” modelled by Final Exam (1981) Matthew Perry-esque frat dude.

I worry about how much hairspray went into creating this bonfire mound of hair, worsened by the centre parting and general volume. It lends well to the character’s general smarminess and eventual knife through the torso.

grotesque 1987 bad hair

“Wind Shear,” by Gang Member from Grotesque (1987)

Looks like actress Bunky Jones – also modelling a huge do in Hide and Go Shriek that same year – stuck her head out the window on the freeway and was hit in the face by a blueberry pie.

sleepaway camp judy bad hair

“The Cricked-Neck Counterbalancer,” sported by Judy in Sleepaway Camp (1983)

The entire 80s Sleepaway Camp franchise is full of fashion faux pas’ and bad hair, and it’s possibly Judy started it all by pulling her entire mane of thick, dry hair into a side-ponytail, which must have had consequences for her skeletal musculo something something.

child's play 3 bad hair

“What ever happened to Tiffany?” on random girl from Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Shaggy perm, scrunchie on top, was this look still around in ’91? I guess so. Perhaps Chucky was too weirded out by it, because this chick exits the film intact.

bad hair girls nite out 1982

“2-for-1 on Bad Hair,” with Pryor from Girls Nite Out (1982)

A classic 80s mullet and 90s curtains together at last, somehow before either became fashionable, on Hal Holbrook’s son as the is-he-or-isn’t-he killer, who understandably would’ve donned that bear costume after glancing in the mirror at this atrocity.

bad hair trampa infernal

“Perm-A-Mullet,” by lead-guy in Trampa Infernal (1989)

This guy is the hero, aided probably by extra protection afforded to the skull by the thickness of his curly mullet. I need to go to Mexico and see if they still have this do.

bad hair grotesque 1987

“The Morning After,” by Shelly in Grotesque (1987)

Grotesque – surely named for the hair-don’ts that litter it – strikes again, with another of the punkz, who looks like she lapsed into a two-week coma under a hairdryer.

christine elise child's play 2 1990

“Push it all aside,” with Kyle from Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Probably the least offensive ‘do on the list, but this is a nice compensation for Judy’s heavy list to one side, with Kyle pushing it all to the other, but with less length to slowly pull her neck over.

bad hair bloodstained shadow

“Insane Asylum Special,” for deranged son of nurse in The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

It may be hard to see clearly, but this poor chap has a standard buzz-cut on top and then a sort of mullet at the sides. The character was kept in a room on a remote island off Italy, so maybe that’s how they rolled there in the late 70s.

linda blair bad hair grotesque 1988

“The Career Flatliner,” from Dame Linda Blair in Grotesque (1987)

Maybe she was possessed by a demon again, as that’s surely the only explanation for this hairspray-OD’d combo of several terrible mid-80s styles, which I fear still exist at roadhouses in the square States.

Scream 19

braxton butcher 2015

BRAXTON BUTCHER

3 Stars  2015/15/111m

“Every town has secrets.”

A.k.a. The Butchering (USA)

Director/Writer: Leo McGuigan / Cast: Shaun Blaney, Jenna Byrne, Andrew Stanford, Diona Doherty, Ciaran McCourt, Vicky Allen, Joshua Colquhoun, Rachel Morton, Philip Rafferty, Natalie Curran, Stephanie Donaghue, Odhran McNulty, Brandon McCaffrey.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “Ready to be the final girl?”


During the rehearsal of a prank in Braxton Butcher, one character turns to another and says: “It’s too Scream 3, it should be more Scream 2.” And that pretty much sums up what this cute homage is all about. Leo McGuigan, only nineteen when he directed this, is clearly on Team VeVo in terms of ranking the Scream flicks in realising the second one is the best one. Minor spoilers ensue.

It’s a well established fact that the sexiest accent in the world is Irish. Those with a keener ear will be able to delineate between regions therein; but spades being spades, everyone in this film could drop my pants any second with just a few brief utterances. Ahem, anyway…

Cops are called to the Miller house in the small NI town of Braxton after the neighbours hear screams. There, they find Mom and Dad slain, laid out on the bed, their teenage son, Tommy, nowhere to be found. Instead he’s busy crashing a party at the town hall, where he slashes up a number of classmates, leaving survivors Ryan and Cora.

braxton butcher 2015

Ten years later – never nine, never eleven – the two have drifted apart: Ryan has grown up to become a detective, and Cora presents a local radio show. In a curveball turn of events, she and her bratty teen sister are slashed up by a mask and Parka wearing loon, leaving Ryan to investigate with the help of his new partner, Will.

News of the murder fascinates the local teens, who show no sign of calling off their town hall throwdown, even when their own peers begin getting sliced up. Ryan’s seventeen-year-old niece Julie is thrust into the centre of things, as she has a sort of Sidney-Billy on-off romance with Danny, who has been dating bitchy girl Claudia, who is seeing Oliver on the site, despite the fact he’s with Sarah. Confusing.

braxton butcher 2015

Clocking in just shy of two hours is ambitious for any slasher film, and Braxton veers into being quite talky here and there, with a lot of characters to keep track of, but McGuigan has clearly studied what works on a visual level and pushed these elements to the forefront, most commonly extended scenes of characters being stalked or chased. Sure, the budget is probably quite far south of Wes Craven’s but this is still leagues ahead of other recent British efforts that looked like local am-dram groups rented a camera and wrote a stalk n’ slash script in an afternoon: “Yeah, it just needs tits, lesbians, and some ketchup!”

The actors are all game – screaming at the right moments and not really making all the idiotic decisions expected of them in this genre, although the killer opts to terrorise female victims with more drawn out cat and mousery than the boys, who are largely victims of quick stab n’ go drive-bys. Vicky Allen is a hoot as bitchy Claudia, who would have VICTIM stamped on her forehead in any other film, but here is given the chance to redeem herself as the situation heads south.

braxton butcher 2015

I read a couple of effusive reviews that had me thinking I was about to see the next Cold Prey, which isn’t quite the case, but considering McGuigan’s tender age and the effort he and the crew appears to have put in, seeing beyond the usual pitfalls of making a teen-horror film, this deserves more exposure, if not only to see what is likely the beginnings of an impressive career.

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