Youtube Film Club: Psycho Cop (1989)

This marks the start of a season of reviews of movies with “Cop” as the last word of their title. Even though we’ve already reviewed “Samurai Cop”, “Hollywood Cop”, “Vampire Cop”, the other “Vampire Cop”, all three “Maniac Cop” entries, “Omega Cop”, “Karate Cop”, “Android Cop” and “Demon Cop”, there are many more out there which require us to tell the world about. If you have a favourite, please leave a comment!

Director Wallace Potts seemed an interesting fellow. Like fellow ISCFC-covered director David DeCoteau, he got his start directing gay porn (according to the sole review of his “Dude” from 1979, it’s pretty classy stuff, as some adult entertainment of the time had actual production values and so on) and was the lover of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev in the 70s too – he was the chief archivist of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation from 1992 to his death in 2007. Aside from an “additional dialogue” credit on Mad Max-alike “Terminus” in 1987, and a segment of a portmanteau film with the clunky title “Tales Of The Unliving And The Undead”, this represents the entirety of his mainstream filmmaking career, and I’m sort of fascinated in why it started and ended so quickly.

Anyway. Our hero, referred to in the credits as “Psychocop” but going initially by the name Officer Joe Vickers, really loves Satan. He draws pentagrams everywhere and writes 666 too (referred to as the sign of the devil, when I thought it was the number of the beast? Ah, I don’t keep up on my Satanism, sorry), and when a newly married couple takes a wrong turn at a remote gas station, they’re in bad territory and do not last long at all.

Officer Joe has the most charming laugh and crazy eyes, and really relished the role, you can tell. He’s funny as hell, with every one-liner being a delight – I mean, they’re cheesy as hell, but it’s all in the delivery. “You have the right to remain…DEAD!” or, just after ripping a fella’s heart out, “have a heart…ha ha!” Kudos to Robert R Shafer (who you might remember from “The Office”) for spinning wheat into gold with his amazing performance.

Because without him, this would be really tough to deal with. A group of six college students, three gay guys and their female friends, go for a trip to a luxury cabin in the woods. Wait, they’re three couples? Huh? Sorry, let’s start again. Three gay actors who are very bad at playing straight go on a trip to a luxury cabin in the woods, and Officer Joe decides to murder them all and have some fun while he’s doing it. And that’s it, pretty much. It’s a delightfully standard slasher movie, with its “Meet the Meat” segment, jump scares, the guy who insists “everything is fine” long past the point when even the most rational person would be panicking, the killer who appears gifted with powers of teleportation, and no-one actually discovering a dead body til almost the end of the movie.

There’s an intriguing wrinkle with the caretaker character, who you think is going to be central to things. He shows up with an axe (a suspiciously brand new-looking one, but whatever), says he’s around all the time, shows them round the house, and then…he’s one of the early victims, getting an axe to the head. He points out that the lights go off at midnight and there’s a weird thing with the hot tub, so you assume it’s foreshadowing for stuff that’s going to happen later, but no – I’m not sure whether it’s just bad writing or a clever joke on similar scenes in other movies. The caretaker is referred to, after his death, something like 30 times, which seems weird but then a lot of “Psycho Cop” is weird.

There are lots of moments that have you wondering at the thought processes behind the writing. There’s the odd focus on soup; the way one of the characters goes looking for her missing toothbrush outside, in the bushes, in the dark; and, oddest of all, the way one of the guys keeps trying to get one of the women to go into the woods with him for sex, but she says no, complaining of mosquitoes. Well, that’s not the odd bit, it’s how they’re in a gigantic house with multiple bedrooms. Why not just suggest you go to a nice comfy bed, mate? Have you got an outdoor sex fetish?

I assumed at the beginning that the movie was filmed by Mormons, as everyone is very soberly dressed (with the exception of a brief sunbathing scene, there’s not a millimetre of skin on display), but I’m guessing it’s more to do with the sexuality of the director. And it’s a good thing, as no-one’s watching “Psycho Cop” to see women disrobe – you’re watching it to see quips and kills! Even though there’s one horny guy in it, it’s a very sexless movie.

It’s also, I hasten to add, absolutely terrible. No reason is given for any of this stuff happening, and without Shafer, it would be a joyless slog through “teen” death like we’ve seen a million times before. One presumes it was inspired by the previous year’s “Maniac Cop”, but whereas Maniac Cop was good, this was awful; seriously, they have nothing in common, although “Maniac Cop 3” sort of dips its toe in supernatural waters, the same as this does (worshiping the devil isn’t just for fun!).

It’s available for free, is entertaining as hell, and absolutely should be added to your bad movie night rotation. And there’s a sequel which is listed as a comedy too! If I can track it down, I’ll review that one for you too.

Rating: thumbs up

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