William Lustig is no stranger to films that dabble in the anarchic and try to play with our conceptions of paranoia and fear. The director is responsible for one of the most infamous slashers to ever come out in theaters “Maniac,” so delving in to the opposite spectrum of the premise is not surprising. “Maniac Cop” is almost an unofficial spin off of “Maniac” in where the former title was about a maniacal psycho on the loose in the city, the latter is about a maniacal authority figure on the loose in the city. Lustig doesn’t detract from the same tone and atmosphere that “Maniac” succeeded in and injects much of the same chaos and paranoia in this slasher film.
What “Maniac Cop” has going for it though is the subtext of the political undercurrent of the late eighties where cops weren’t exactly being perceived as man’s best friend. This is around the decade where cops were perceived as dirty, corrupt, and often evil. So “Maniac Cop” preys on that recurring theme and uses it as a way to create a base fear not only within the viewer but within the characters as well. “Maniac Cop” is set down in the late eighties of New York City where a cop is roaming the streets murdering and mutilating innocent victims. “Maniac Cop” doesn’t entirely focus on the murders, which makes the film all the more uneasy and unnerving to sit through. Often we can never be sure which individual in a cops uniform is our maniac cop, and that makes us question every face.
For a while “Maniac Cop” tries to become a whodunit murder mystery but stows that theme once it becomes apparent to the viewer that our resident villain is anything but human. Lustig uses much of the same tricks from “Maniac” as well, setting down on hapless victims while they’re murdered by a nameless often faceless being who creeps out from the shadows. Tom Atkins is in full form as an officer investigating the maniac cop who has a hunch this individual is anything but your average officer, and once the villain frames a local officer (as played by a restrained Bruce Campbell), all bets are off to find him before he is able to fade in to the darkness and get away with his crimes. There’s a lot more layers to “Maniac Cop” than the premise would have you believe.
And it works as a revenge thriller, a slasher film, and a brisk look at New York in a time where not even the authorities were kind. Lustig perfects his view of the city that’s often desolate and crime ridden, on the way to nowhere, and this is perfect stomping grounds for the maniac cop to roam free in. Robert Z’Dar is a force to be reckoned with as the title character who is unforgiving in his pursuit of revenge and murder, and he creates an aura of horror that makes the suit he wears take on a life of its own. All in all while it’s admittedly trashy horror, it’s trashy horror you can kick back with and I had a blast. “Maniac Cop” is a pretty underrated little slasher gem.
The Blu-Ray features a widescreen presentation with a 1.85:1 aspect ration. Among the special features in the new deluxe Blu-Ray is “Maniac Cop Memories,” a small interview with horror star Robert Z’Dar, there’s “Out the Window” an interview with co-star Tom Atkins, a Three Minutes with Danny Hicks featurette, an animated promotional art gallery for “Maniac Cop”; There are theatrical trailers and TV Spots, along with a radio spot, and finally scenes for “Maniac Cop” that were filmed for Japanese Television that buffs of the film will really eat up. Director William Lustig is not out of his element here as he focuses on yet another maniac, except this time donning the uniform of a police officer. This is a very entertaining and spooky revenge tale with strong performances and thankfully Synapse Film treats it respect on its Blu-Ray treatment.