"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Psycho Cop

tn_psychocopPSYCHO COP is no MANIAC COP, I’ll tell you that. You know, MANIAC COP is a low budget indie exploitation movie, but it’s the kind with scope. The kind where they use all the resources they have, sneak shots on location, try to push the envelope on stunts, stretch the budget, get as much bang for the nickel as they possibly can. The kind that were made to play in a theater in Times Square for a while but that people are still interested in today. PSYCHO COP (which came out between MANIAC COPs 1 and 2) is the other kind.

Instead of an action-horror hybrid this is a generic shitty slasher with its closest thing to a redeeming value being the cop-themed killer, Officer Joe Vickers (played by Bobby Ray Shafer, now best known as Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration on The Office). He’s an officer who suddenly goes on a killing spree. Also he’s satanic. In the opening he puts on his uniform in a dingy apartment with a pentagram painted on the wall and candles everywhere. He dips his hands in a bowl of blood before putting on his sunglasses. Later he sets up a bunch of wooden crosses in the woods for a ritual.

The victims (they almost don’t count as protagonists) are three obnoxious college dudes and their girlfriends who road trip in a convertible to a huge, fancy house that they rented out in the middle of nowhere using money they got from investing their tuition money in stocks. There’s a pool and a jacuzzi and a brawny, ax-wielding caretaker who lives in a dumpy trailer nearby. He only introduces himself as “the caretaker,” no name, and the actor is also not credited. Possibly so as to avoid reprisals from B.O.S.O., the Brotherhood of Satanic Officers.

mp_psychocopThis is the kind of script where at least 90% of the dialogue is the characters whining and complaining at each other. One exception is right at the beginning when one of the girls tells a joke: “What has 18 legs and two tits?”

A guy in the car says “a gang bang,” but the girl’s answer is “The Supreme Court.” So that would be a good illustration of the difference in intelligence and attitudes between the genders in the movie, if they were to go on to be real characters.

They get followed to the house by a police car, then try to have fun drinking beer and lounging. They have pretty good instincts though because for some reason they know to panic when they can’t find the caretaker. Even if there was no psycho cop and he had just gone to the store to get milk their vacation would’ve been ruined because they expend so much energy on worrying about him being gone and trying to figure out why. They also get real upset when a purse and some beer disappear. I guess that’s fair though.

It should be noted that on the way there one of them throws litter from the car. This never comes up again but I think the emphasis on it might imply that it’s the source of their troubles. What kind of a dumb asshole throws garbage on the ground? The kind that needs to get Psycho Copped.

The DVD I watched was put out by a small company that just transferred it straight from a VHS tape with the questionable claim that it’s in the public domain. In the UK it’s slapped onto a double feature with TALONS OF THE EAGLE. But I doubt anybody cares too much that there’s not a higher quality release. Filmatistically it’s amateurish and crappy in that distinctly late ’80s b-movie type of way. Since there’s no style or atmosphere, no likable characters and minimal effects, following the standard slasher formula is no fun. You gotta put some meat on those bones for it to work. And also to make the audience forgive nonsensical cheats like a door she can’t exit because she doesn’t have the key. What kind of an ineptly designed house is this?

This might have the most uses ever of lines like “if this is another one of your stupid practical jokes…” Also, “I’ll kill you if this is a joke” and “I’d lose my head if it wasn’t for you.” If I’m not mistaken though there is no decapitation in this one. That would be too much work.

The only fun comes from Shafer as the cop, speaking in a deep commercial narrator type voice, making terrible jokes and then laughing. He says things like “You shouldn’t run from the police!” to somebody he’s strangling, or, before tasing somebody, “Tired? Rundown? Need some energy?” And the more Freddy-esque “Have a heart! Ha ha ha!” while holding a heart that he ripped out of another cop’s chest. But my favorite is when he’s on the roof of a car, reaching in to commandeer the steering wheel, and saying “Turning! Turning!” for some reason.

I guess I also got sort of a kick out of the dudes in the movie because at least two of them seemed to me like they were gay, but they’re playing macho aggressively hetero dudes. So it adds some unintentional subtext.

Writer/director Wallace Potts also directed at least one gay porn movie and was an administration assistant on SHARKY’S MACHINE. Of the cast, the one who seems to have gone on to the most notable career is Greg Joujon-Roche, who plays Zack (whichever one that is). He had previously been in HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE and has since become a personal trainer who choreographed the workout montages for G.I. JANE.

Of course the inspiration for watching these movies was the recent rash of highly publicized police killings. But even more than the MANIAC COP series, PSYCHO COP does not really address police brutality in any kind of meaningful way, it’s just using it as a horror gimmick. Since all of the characters are rich white kids there is nothing to be gleaned about police/race/class issues. It does, however, capture the more low key fear/hate that young people have of cops as the authority figures who will pull them over for speeding or ruin their unruly drinking plans. So it does have that: the group of kids seeing a cop car on the side of the road and getting scared. That’s the type of cop-fear they’re playing off of in this one.

The world of PSYCHO COP does not recognize a systemic problem with police brutality. The Psycho Cop is a weird anomaly rooted not in machismo, prejudice or lack of accountability, but in occultism. And the rest of the force are on it fucking immediately. They notice that Officer Vickers is missing, they search his apartment, run his fingerprints, connect him to murders, come after him, openly admit that this is what’s going on. In fact, an officer that reports to the scene immediately tells the surviving kids the Psycho’s entire backstory including that he was using a fake name, had a history of mental problems, even going back to his childhood and the events that caused him to become disillusioned with God and turn to devil worship. I mean, they have done a thorough investigation and are immediately revealing all to the public without them even asking about it. Complete transparency.

Then in the last scene it’s implied that not only is Vickers a fake name, but also the name Hanley that they said was his real name is also fake and he’s actually some notorious serial killer. So the takeaway here is that they need to do way better background checks when they hire new officers. So in that sense it is a story that is applicable to current events. Don’t hire officers that have been found unfit for duty on other forces, and also don’t hire officers that are escaped serial killers. Try harder.

And you too, makers of late ’80s z-grade slashers. I think you are capable of at least a y-grade if you put some more elbow grease into it.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 15th, 2014 at 1:07 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

15 Responses to “Psycho Cop”

  1. Next up: Ray Liotta, Madeline Stowe and Kurt Russell in UNLAWFUL ENTRY.

  2. A good film that addresses all the issues mentioned:


  3. Crushinator Jones

    December 15th, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    The lack of effort and ineptitude extends to that shitty tagline. Maniac Cop has the awesome “you have the right to remain silent…FOREVER!” and this one has a real piece of shit.

  4. The Original Paul

    December 15th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Sounds like I should stick to DOCTOR GIGGLES for my serial-killer-masquerading-as-respected-professional thrills. The good Doctor also speaks entirely in one-liners, but it sounds like the rest of the movie is probably a lot better than the rest of PSYCHO COP is. Which apparently didn’t stop the latter from getting three sequels. (Y’know, reading all of these reviews has made me realise just how mistaken I’ve been in my assumption that the constant barrage of crappy unnecessary sequels, remakes and reboots is a modern thing. The reboot, maybe, but the others seem to have been going on for years.) Are PSYCHO COP 2, PSYCHO COP 3, PSYCHO COP RETURNS and PSYCHO COP AND ROBIN (I may have made that last one up) going to be next on the review list, Vern?

    And even the name isn’t original! Thinking back to that time it seemed like EVERYTHING was called “Psycho”-something. There was even, I remember fondly, a cute kids’ game on the Master System called “Psycho Fox”. (That was actually a really fun little game.) There was a “Psycho Crusher”, “Psycho Mantis”, “Psychos in Love”, even a “Psycho Pinball”. (IMDB also shows movies called “Bloody Psycho” and “Psycho Girls”, but I can’t claim to have heard of them beforehand.) And of course you got all three PSYCHO sequels coming out during the eighties (well, the last one technically came out in 1990, but who the heck cares, it’s close enough.) What was it with that decade and Psychos? (The trend hasn’t stopped either – there are enough Psycho-named movies in the 2000s – but the eighties seems to be where the craze was at its height.)

    So I decided to test that theory on IMDB, and it turns out that dead in the middle of the eighties there was a film released called PSYCHO BEACH PARTY. And I’ve just read about it on IMDB and really, really want to see it now. Argh. Ah well, I’ll look out for BEACH PARTY and leave COP to its fans.

  5. Bobby Ray REALLY turns the yak-yak up to 666 in the sequel (of course there was one). Misquoting him from memory (from the scene in which he’s cuffing a headless corpse): “You have the right to remain dead. Anything you do say can and will be considered extremely strange… because you’re dead. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one won’t be provided for you. Because you’re dead.”

    (Yeah, I remembered it. I was about 11, and I found that crap hilarious).

    I’ve looked up that “Office” and it’s apparently some TV series… so THAT’S where psychocop has been hiding, while lovers of Z-grade slashers have been waiting for him to pop up with Psychocop III!

  6. The sequal rules. That’s all I got.

  7. Paul, PSYCHO BEACH PARTY came out in 2000 and it’s a queer high camp melodrama horror parody of old Frankie and Annette beach movies. It’s pretty good (with an early role for Vern favorite Amy Adams) but it’s not really in the same category as the other PSYCHO movies.

  8. This COP retrospective needs to climax with COP. It’s the first and last word in COP movies.

  9. The Original Paul

    December 16th, 2014 at 1:58 am

    Majestyk – I beg your pardon, I was confusing it with PSYCHO GIRLS, which came out in 1985 and which I know literally nothing about other than that (saw it on IMDB when searching for “Psycho” references).

  10. The Original Paul

    December 16th, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Got the dates wrong, I mean. What a psycho-crock!

  11. The Original Paul

    December 16th, 2014 at 2:00 am

    …And with that statement I think I just lost my right to ever make cheesy puns again.

  12. Speaking of maniac cops, I remember Michael Parks also played one in THE CHINA LAKE MURDERS.

    He’s the type who goes on vacation once a year, takes his uniform and bike and kills people in the middle of nowhere, for some arbitrary reason I can’t recall.
    Tom Skerritt is the local sheriff who has to deal with him. I found it fairly bland, but yeah…I thought I’d bring it up.

  13. OK I haven’t seen this movie, but I DID see Psycho Cop II on accident because when I was a kid I kinda dug Maniac Cop and rented this one thinking it was the sequel. Yup, I liked the first one so much, I forgot the title (d’oh!). Although, Maniac vs Psycho is a very easy bit of confusion if you ask me!

  14. Man, until I read “the rest of this shit…” i was totally on board.

  15. Oslord’s confusion between maniac and psycho makes me think of a story from my childhood. My brother was home one weekend from college. He had a class on American folklore and they were studying urban legends. He had a big binder filled with them and I started reading it. After awhile I had to go ask my mom what one of the words was, because it kept coming up and I didn’t know it. She said, “It’s maniac. What are you reading?” Then she took it away.

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