To Serve and Protect – Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop released in 1988 is a horror film that finds a policeman betrayed by the system that he believed in and as such, takes his frustrations and his rage out upon it. The fact that innocents happen to get in the way is of no consequence – there is only room for the anger he feels and it is up to Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon to stop him.

Directed by William Lustig and written by Larry Cohen, they present not only a horror film with the standard amount of blood and guts, but one that also features a subtle terror – the betrayal of the public trust, of a man and an institution that most would never question. It is the basis upon which the movie is built and which rears its head every time one of the victims finds themselves being killed by Officer Cordell, the titular maniac cop. Horror films have played with the theme for decades, though more often than not, it is the doctor, the friend or the family member who turns out to be the killer, not those that men and women turn to in their time of need. Of course, the cop in question as played by Robert Z’Dar is quite mad due to his experiences and as such, becomes the unstoppable killer in the vein of Jason or Michael Myers.

Good to see is Bruce Campbell in the hero role, the straight-up, non-comedic good guy who is going to save the day, though to say he is as pure as the driven snow would be misleading. Despite his faults, Officer Jack W. Forrest, Jr. seems like a good cop and when push comes to shove, he will do whatever it takes to bring Cordell down. Richard Roundtree also puts in an appearance as the Commissioner, though it is obvious that the man would not be long for the spotlight as he becomes yet another victim of the killer.

The film itself is a lot of fun, partly due to it being slightly ridiculous at times, the acting a little wooden and the dialogue slightly cringe-worthy. It does nothing to take away from the entertainment value of it, instead adding to the picture and making it far more lively and amusing than it might have been otherwise. While the film may have seemed a little silly at times, Maniac Cop continually provides not only a source of amusement, but fills that need for horror and action one can only find in a B-movie such as this.

3.5 out of 5

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