‘Headlights fogged? Sand, buff and polish with this three-part restoration system and they’ll look good as new.”
“That old plastic garden hose weighing you down? Try this lightweight, guaranteed, kink-free alternative.”
“Flabby? Shake this vibrating dumbbell for twenty minutes a day and tighten and tone in six weeks or less.”
They expect us to believe that? All of that? Or our money back?
If it sounds too good to be true, you’re probably going to pay at least three easy payments of $19.95 and get a free duplicate of that essential purchase (because if one is good, two has got to be better, right?).
Avoid such charlatanism.
If you prefer some truth in your advertising, look no further than your nearest horror movie.
There are no secrets with horror. You’ll know what you’re getting simply from the titles. Think about it: The Blob, The Toolbox Murders, Blood Sucking Freaks. Yep. No false pretenses here. Horror is one great big open book.
The same is true for this week’s feature, Maniac Cop. You get what you pay for (though from a grammatically-accurate point of view, shouldn’t it be called Maniacal Cop?): a peeved policeman who goes on a revenge-fueled rampage.
Of course, no case here at ScreamFish is quite so open and shut. Join us as we look beneath the blood-stained badge to see if there are more arresting developments…
We’ve all heard the old saying: “You can never find a cop in this town when you need one.”
If you lived in New York City in 1988 and were one of the few people who actually saw Larry Cohen’s Maniac Cop, you probably would’ve just settled for a good old-fashioned mugging.
When a killer dressed as a cop begins terrorizing Manhattan, genuine Lieutenant Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) suspects it may be a current member of the force. He comes under fire when he asks Commissioner Pike (Shaft’s Richard Roundtree) to authorize mental health tests on the city’s current crop of cops to see if one of them may be the culprit. Pike warns McCrae not to push that angle for fear that it will stir backlash and give the force a black eye, gently reminding McCrae that his own competence could be in question, due to his former partner’s suicide.
So in an attempt to protect the public, McCrae puts the word out to one of his former media contacts who immediately runs with his hunch. As a result, paranoia escalates and an officer gets killed in the line of duty while making a routine traffic stop.
A young cop, Jack Forrest (Evil Dead legend Bruce Campbell) gets nabbed for the murders when his wife ends up dead after discovering that he is having an affair with fellow officer, Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon). McCrae believes Forrest was framed and sets out to exonerate him. Soon after, Theresa gets attacked by the killer while working undercover as a prostitute. Thankfully, McCrae is backing her up, but when the two of them fight off the maniac cop, they notice that even through his gloves, he is cold as ice. He doesn’t breathe, and he doesn’t even blink when they unload a revolver into him. They narrowly escape, and eventually, Forrest is released from custody. Together he and Mallory do a little detecterin’ and discover the secret of the maniac cop.
Turns out, he actually is (or was) a hard-knock policeman named Matt Cordell who refused to play by the rules and bucked authority. The city’s crooked mayor and Commissioner Pike (no saint himself) had him sent upstate to Sing Sing for police brutality before he could drop the hammer on them. While in jail, Cordell was brutally attacked by a gang of thugs who left him for dead. The prison’s medical examiner admits to Forrest and Mallory that he declared Cordell dead (even though he survived with severe brain trauma) so that he could be removed from population and allowed to die in peace outside the prison walls.
But Cordell, now an avenging, zombiefied, even more hard-knock type of a policeman, has other plans. And before his screentime ends, he becomes judge, jury and executioner for the top brass that thought they’d done him in.
Maniac Cop unfolds like the Mafioso-inner workings straight out of the Bible’s First and Second Books of Kings. There’s sex, scandal, revenge, violence and backstabbing (figurative and literal). Even McCrae, the lone good guy, has a dark haze to him, bending the law he’s sworn to uphold to protect the innocent. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is anything but.
Paul references the Old Testament in Romans 3:11-12 when he says: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” He goes on to snatch various snippets from the Psalms and Proverbs, telling us that “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3: 13-18). And while Paul was describing First Century Jerusalem, he could’ve just as easily been addressing the celluloid setting of 1986’s Maniac Cop.
Or maybe, he could’ve been talking about the all-too-real reel that plays out in our day-to-day lives in 2015.
It’s easy for us to point fingers at others, admonishing the wickedness that seems to escalate non-stop on all sides, but according to Paul, we are no better than the worst of the worst. If we are not careful, we too may become as cold and bloodthirsty as Officer Matt Cordell—a walking dead shell of the champion of righteousness we were meant to be. Our saving grace is the Author of Grace, Jesus Christ. It is only by accepting, following and imitating him that we can do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
Anything else would just be crazy.