Viking Night: Maniac Cop
By Bruce Hall
October 22, 2013
Maniac Cop automatically gets two stars for the kick ass title. It automatically earns another because Bruce Campbell is in it. And since I am a generous person with high standards, I will go ahead and throw in a bonus star because Shaft himself - Richard Roundtree - also appears. I don’t generally go in for ratings but if I did, this would represent a coveted Four Star Viking Night, which is only one star short of Ghostbusters and Wrath of Khan.
In fact, this is so impressive that I’ll bet you’re wondering how a movie that made $671,382 at the box office (yes, all the commas are there) could be so fantastically good. The answer is that with great power comes great responsibility. And as the awesome responsibility that is Viking Night falls to me, so does the equally awesome power to take away some of those stars when I see fit. And even though I came away pleasantly surprised, Maniac Cop still gave me a couple of pretty solid reasons to do just that.
Since this movie was released in 1988, the streets of Manhattan are still crawling with thugs dressed like they’re from a Latin revival of West Side Story. One night, two such kids try their luck with a barmaid walking home alone, except that she kicks their asses with what is clearly a prop purse. The terrified girl flees and runs straight into the arms of a street cop, who promptly crushes her neck like a bag of Doritos. Then, all of a sudden it’s late morning and the would be thieves are in handcuffs, explaining to a bunch of non-psycho cops how one of them appears to be a maniac.
But the police do not believe them because they're criminals, and because slasher movie logic.
Word of all this quickly reaches the desk of Detective Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins), who suddenly and inexplicably decides that the kids are telling the truth and that he also knows how the killer thinks. This is exactly the amount of information he immediately takes to police commissioner Pike (Richard Roundtree), who orders Frank to suppress the truth. But because he’s a dedicated cop who plays by his own rules, McCrae leaks the story to a local news station anyway, promptly causing the city to explode with paranoid hysteria. People are shooting cops just for walking down the street, and the Commish is not a happy man.
Eager to pin the blame on someone, the department finds a sucker in officer Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell), a patrolman unlucky enough to find himself in the wrong girl at the wrong time. Jack claims he’s innocent, but McCrae isn’t buying it - at least not until the very next scene, where he totally changes his mind for no reason. Frank begins to suspect that the police are being lied to and that someone, somewhere has an interest in letting the killings continue. As the mystery (and the plot) both unravel, the horribly confusing and confusingly horrible truth combine into what is almost good stupid fun, except when it's not.