The 13th Floor

Lost on VHS: PSYCHO COP (1989)

“He’s the last cop you’ll ever meet.”

The arresting cover art (oh, yes, I did!) for Southgate Entertainment’s home video release of Wallace Potts’ PSYCHO COP is what you could call masterfully misleading. It dares you not to confuse this movie with the more recognized and largely lauded William Lustig action-slasher staple MANIAC COP, employing an obvious cash-in on the similarly titled and solidly successful predecessor which was released just one year earlier. From the black, blue and red color scheme, to the iniquitous inner-city feel, down to the title placement on the cover, Southgate’s PSYCHO COP aims to emulate the Transworld Entertainment VHS release of MANIAC COP literally to the letter (i.e. the font is identical!). However, instead of offering a gritty, gore-soaked grindhouse flick on the level of MANIAC COP, PSYCHO COP coughs up a below average woodsy slasher rehash that elevates itself to exceptional solely based on its entertaining (and dubiously unintentional) ineptitude.

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PSYCHO COP starts out with a semblance of promise featuring some semi-stylish set-up shots of satanic symbols and hands bathed in a bowl of blood, leading into a couple quick and dirty kills from the eponymous Officer Vickers. We are then unfortunately introduced to a gang of teens headed to a poolside getaway at a secluded mansion, all of which represent clunky clones of archetypal soon-to-be corpses lifted from various slasher entries. Their cardboard acting mixed with a deluge of cheesy lines and general idiocy are good for a laugh, but it’s just not enough to create any sympathy for this pack of preppy protagonists. This ultimately works in PSYCHO COP’s favor, however, as it creates a killer you can really root for.

After Officer Vickers infiltrates, axes the caretaker and steals their stash of beer (go ahead and take a drink every time a character says the word “beer”) the teens are slow on the uptake and the crazed cop playfully picks them off in pedestrian fashion, mostly employing uninventive and bloodless methods, save a couple kills that are mildly entertaining. One of the better kills consists of Vickers jamming a billy club down one teen’s throat and punctuating it with the cheesy quip, “You have the right to remain… SILENT!” If you can dig on that sort of corny one-liner comedy, Bobby Ray Shafer’s performance as Officer Vickers offers up some real gems.

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I simply can’t resist relating one more scene in PSYCHO COP, if only to exemplify the kind of insanity happening within the runtime. Remember the aforementioned caretaker? After Vickers bashes his brain in with the axe, it cuts to the group sunning by the pool when all of a sudden one of them stands up and says, “I thought I heard someone screaming.” The caretaker’s kill contained no on-screen scream whatsoever, and to top it off, one of the girls snaps back, “Doug, you’re imagining things. It was the rock music!” It’s unbelievably dumb.

Technically speaking, this is not a good horror movie. Honestly, it’s pretty awful. It’s unoriginal, poorly paced and resultantly soporific, hinging on threadbare slasher elements and littered with dumber-than-thou dialog. However, in an odd way, that’s what makes this movie worth the watch. When viewed as standard slasher fare, PSYCHO COP can be seen as as a vapid, hackneyed rip-off with all the markings of an unenviable imitation, but if viewed as an unintentional parody of the slasher sub-genre (which at times I think it HAS to be intentional), and played to the right connoisseur of beer-soaked cinema, this is one horrible horror flick that can turn into a lot of laughs. Because when you gather ‘round your VCR, stick in a slab of mind-melting magnetic magic and suck down a six pack (or three) with good friends, it can make for some of the best movie nights you’ll never remember.

After you recover from watching PSYCHO COP, be sure to seek out PSYCHO COP 2 (AKA PSYCHO COP RETURNS), as the sequel feels a bit more fresh and offers lots of intentional laughs, gobs of radical gore and a plenty of sex and salacious strippers that are sure to satiate your Friday night fright desires just as much (if not more) as the original. Oh, and make sure you go for the unrated VHS version of PSYCHO COP 2 as much of the gore and sex is edited out on the DVD release. As for the original PSYCHO COP, this one’s a long shot for any kind of U.S. DVD release, and there is a VHS rip is available online, but I solemnly suggest you feed this one to your VCR. You wouldn’t want to get picked up for resisting analog arrest. I couldn’t help myself.

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