Digital Press’s review published on Letterboxd:
🎵 He’s a maniac 🎶 Mayyyy niac on the force 🎵 And he’s killing like he’s never killed before 🎶
Sorry, I had this song in my head through the whole movie, so it should be in your head as you read the rest of this review. Pay it forward, if you will.
There are so many elements of this movie I love. There’s the extremely likable cast, including Bruce “Evil Dead” Campbell, Tom “Halloween III” Adkins and William “The Outsiders” Smith. It’s written by Larry Cohen (his list is too long to simplify with a single quoted title) and directed by Maniac’s William Lustig. So much goodness, but do great ingredients necessarily make a great movie? In its day, the answer was no, but it’s not 1988 and this is MY review.
The story starts as a bit of a whodunnit slasher, as a maniac cop is randomly murdering citizens to the point where the entire city is terrified of the police force. We don’t see his face, and Bruce Campbell is the prime suspect. The movie probably could have successfully continued in this slasher-thriller genre, but instead - in typical Cohen fashion - it drifts away from the formula and in so doing creates a franchise that introduces a very special kind of bad guy in officer Matt Cordell, played to perfection by Robert Z’Dar. Z’Dar’s strange look made him an easy choice for a villain and Maniac Cop has to be his signature. His legacy!
It’s a low-budget film with some spotty acting but it’s also fast-paced and full of kills as well as Cohen’s typical knack for portraying gritty city life and comic book dialogue. It is also wonderfully campy and the kind of movie where you can turn off your brain and enjoy. Do great ingredients necessarily make a great movie? In this case, I offer a resounding YES.