Welcome to Notes from the Last Drive-In where this week we go sequel-mode to Maniac Cop and Maniac Cop 2. We’ve not had a double feature of two films in the same franchise since the Halloween Hootenanny, so tonight is a rare treat. So, how do Maniac Cop and its sequel fair? Did Shudder dig too deep?
Maniac Cop (1988)
Opening: Psychics in our midst.
Ah, Maniac Cop. This 1988 crime horror film probably could not be made today given the level of tension surrounding law enforcement, and that is probably for the best because the existing film is already perfectly suited for its time. Maniac Cop is the result of the incredible team-up of the late Larry Cohen and director William Lustig. The film also features a remarkably stacked cast including Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, and Richard Roundtree. The movie belongs, however, to Robert Z’Dar as the titular crazy cop. The movie itself isn’t overly complicated with a ton of plot to get in the way – a vaguely undead cop, wronged by the system, returns to life and exacts violent vengeance on the city. Not a lot here, but the film does well with this stripped-down concept.
The film uses its setting very well, building off the scary New York City of the 1970s and 1980s that worked its way into so many crime films of the time. It is a perfect backdrop for a story about the corruption of justice framed around a hulking cop bashing heads in. And boy, do people get messed up in this movie. Z’Dar’s Officer Cordell is a monster. He offers up an incredible silhouette against the backdrop of night, perhaps looking even bulkier than Jason Voorhees. Z’Dar’s role is mostly mute, but there is an undeniable presence to the character, so it isn’t hard to see why three films were made, with him returning for all three. Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, two leading men, play a form of a relay in the film with the role of lead protagonist switching from one to the other about two-thirds of the way through the film. It’s novel, at least, but between the two of them, Atkins should have carried the movie through to the end. Campbell is fairly flat, here, playing it straight. Atkins gets most of the actual development, Campbell gets a couple of action scenes.
The story is simple but perhaps overly so. The film also has a number of contrivances that allow it to move from set piece to set piece, including a particularly fun chase scene, but again, the plot is a secondary concern here, though perhaps maybe that shouldn’t have been the case. Still, elements of the film have a certain, and unfortunate, timeless quality. Issues of police violence against citizens and corruption of the legal system still persist to this day and were not necessarily new things when Maniac Cop was released. This is a grindhouse film, through and through, and one of the last of them.
The big bit of the first half of the night was the interview with “the chin” himself, Bruce Campbell. The remote-format interviews this season, given their necessity, have been fine. Would it be better to have Bruce Campbell at the cabin, sitting on the porch have been better? Undoubtedly. But these scripted interactions are still very much fun and generally showcase the guest in such a way as to remind us why we like them. Bruce was every bit as charming as he has been known to be across the convention scene and on movie sets. It’s almost like popping in on an old friend. His stories and recollections were welcome – and will surely be welcome again once Joe Bob and company return to the trailer. The night was also a reminder of the wonders of Larry Cohen, one of the finest writers in film, who left us in 2019. It seems to me that there are two kings of the drive-in movie, and Cohen is one of them, the other being Roger Corman.
Joe Bob Briggs gave Maniac Cop four stars, which seems fair to me. I have been poking fun at his generosity a bit this season, but a movie like Maniac Cop just hits all those marks for the type of movie we love at The Last Drive-In. It’s a grindhouse movie that plays fast and loose with storytelling in order to get to the next fun part? But you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Plus, it has Robert Z’Dar casting one of the most imposing silhouettes in film history, so that is a bonus. As for me, I do have my concerns with it, but Maniac Cop is a solid four out of five Cthulhus. (4 / 5)
Best Line: “Look at the size of those hematomas!” – Frank (Joe Bob was totally right about this one)
Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
Opening: Renaissance Faires, emphasis on the “e” in faires.
The back half of the evening revolved around 1990’s Maniac Cop 2. A solid sequel with an even greater make-up job on Robert Z’Dar as the titular maniac cop. The film again reunites writer Larry Cohen and director William Lustig, the second out of four times working together, and builds on the insanity of the first film, wiping out the remaining cast of the first movie. The film also does some interesting things with officer Cordell as well – he is still ill-defined as living or dead, but he does have some surprisingly new depth as well. Maniac Cop 2 stars Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Robert Earl Jones, and Leo Rossi, with Z’Dar returning as Cordell. The film also has two blink-and-you-miss-it cameos with Danny Trejo and Sam Raimi.
Maniac Cop 2 is the better of the films, a rare example of the sequel being better than the original. Yes, I am comparing Maniac Cop 2 to The Godfather: Part II or Toy Story 2. It offers a stronger story than its predecessor, a more interesting, arguably richer take on the antagonist, and a better overall protagonist. It also blows past the first film regarding spectacle, with the last 30 minutes being a non-stop unfurling of chaos. Everything seems bigger and better. Z’Dar is at his best here as Cordell, and the make-up work on him this time around is even stronger. The addition of Leo Rossi as serial killer Steven Turkell is genius. He chews the scenery, and his unlikely team up with Cordell creates some fantastic complications for Robert Davi’s Lieutenant McKinney. It builds on everything established in the first Maniac Cop and makes for a fuller experience overall.
It is still a grindhouse type of film, though, so logical leaps, inconsistent characterizations, and going for what would be most “cool” come fast and frequent in the movie. Does Cordell being able to throw a man through a cinderblock wall make sense? Not really. It is just something you accept in a movie like Maniac Cop 2. The film also makes it very, very clear you don’t need to see the original to enjoy this one, given the amount of reused footage from the first film. It makes it charmingly accessible, if not a bit redundant.
The second guest of the evening was William Lustig. His enthusiasm was fantastic and his stories about old grindhouse theaters, bouncing back and forth with Joe Bob about New York and LA in the 1970s and 1980s were immensely entertaining. The remote format worked well enough here, but with any luck Lustig will be back on the show, in-person. His personality is too enthusiasm not to have on set and the collective film knowledge between him and Joe Bob Briggs in these segments was dizzying. Overall, an excellent guest who took his segment and ran with it.
Joe Bob Briggs gave Maniac Cop 2, unsurprisingly, four stars. I won’t poke fun of him here; the film is every bit a refinement of what made the original Maniac Cop so special. It has just about everything you’d want in an NYC-set horror film involving an undead cop – even more so than the original. Maniac Cop 2 is a four-and-a-half Cthulhu film. (4.5 / 5)
Best Line: “I can’t let someone out on the street with a gun that has emotional problems.” – Susan (if only this was true)
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, Shudder has those drive-in totals straight from the show.
As for our own totals we have:
- 2 remote guests
- 5 drive-in legends
- 2 thugs 1 cop
- 80s worship
- 90s rap theme
- Attempted Muggery
- Patrol Beats
- Let’s learn about Cherubism!
- Chainsaw ranting
- Irish joking
- Frog joking
- Yuki Count: 3
- Silver Bolo Award: Cadavercast
- Darcy Cosplay: 2, Tom Atkins and the Maniac Cop.
A fine night at the drive-in, frankly. The crew is doing the best they can with the remotes and has adapted rather well to the challenges of the Coronavirus. Hopefully, by season four, we’ll be out of the woods and back in the desert. There were some other fun bits in the episode worth mentioning as well. A nice tribute to Joe Spinell closed out the Maniac Cop 2 credits, which was a touching tribute to the original Maniac. Joe Bob got a gift in the form of a 1990-91 Mark Jackson basketball card, infamous for the Menendez Bros. sitting in the background. And there was another brief chapter in Joe Bob’s ranting about chainsaws being a terrible weapon – the second in as many weeks.
But hey, no dead dogs this week. (4.5 / 5)
See you next week, folks. We continue to live-tweet the fun at the Haunted MTL Twitter account, so why not give us a follow there?
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a Film Review
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a R-rated horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas, available on Amazon Prime.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas. Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, this R-rated film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathay Ang, and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. As of this review, the film is available to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Abby Rivers (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller) seek to escape the monotony of high school drama with their friends. However, in their efforts to have fun, Gretchen Lang encounters a troubling otherworldly demon bent on controlling her body. It’s up to Abby to help her overcome this demonic threat.
What I Like in My Best Friend’s Exorcism
The effects are surprisingly good. While not overwhelming, these effects never take me out of the film. Even the less realistic scenes fit the overall tone while looking better than expected or required. The 80’s aesthetic strengthens that believability.
Continuing that thought, My Best Friend’s Exorcism oozes the 80’s. Perhaps this comment should set an expectation for the viewer. I can’t exactly comment on the accuracy of the era, but it certainly fits the era of film. If 80’s films don’t interest you, consider looking somewhere else.
While I don’t meet the target audience, the jokes land and provide an enjoyable horror comedy feel. My Best Friend’s Exorcism focuses more on comedy than horror, but this remains a common trend in horror comedies.
The performances remain strong throughout, with leads Elsie Fisher and Amiah Miller pulling off that best-friend chemistry. The cast purposely captures that 80’s nostalgia. Added to the campy nature of the film, one might grow irritated with the acting choices. For me, it certainly fits with the tone and setting.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Drug use might deserve a mention on this list. While I don’t find this egregious, I imagine this point, or some other technicality, earns the film its undeserved R-rating.
The possession lends itself as a rape allegory, with some characters even believing this to be the trauma Gretchen Lang suffers from. While this isn’t the case, the conversation remains for those who want to avoid such material.
Body horror describes a few scenes of the film, though sparingly. However, one scene convinces me to bring this up for those who get squeamish at the cracking of bones or slimies in the body.
A character is tricked into outing themselves and faces some homophobia because of it. This homophobia is rightfully taken as cruel, not condoned in the slightest, but it remains potentially triggering and deserves mention here.
What I Dislike, or Food for Thought on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
This film seems to earn its R-rating off some technicality. It is neither raunchy nor gruesome for those expecting that from their R-rated horror films. For me, it’s more an issue of setting expectations. I expect my R-rated horrors to hit hard. My Best Friend’s Exorcism doesn’t.
It would be unfair to expect something like Jennifer’s Body, as this is a lighter and zanier film. There are elements of sisterhood and bodily autonomy that echo the cult classic, but My Best Friend’s Exorcism remains an entirely campier affair.
In terms of performances that lack the intended impact, three over-the-top anti-drug spokesmen outstay their welcome. It’s clearly a jab at D.A.R.E., which certainly works in increments, but then one character becomes an important part of the plot and still keeps his caricature.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism fits the taste of an 80’s horror comedy fan. Don’t expect to be frightened at any point, but the comedy lands well enough. The film knows its niche and hits most of its targets. It’s hard to say if the film will stand the test of time, but it certainly earns its runtime.
(3.5 / 5)
American Horror Story Delicate, Rockabye
There’s a lot to unpack from this episode of American Horror Story Delicate, Killer Queens, so I don’t want to waste any time. I just want to take a moment and issue a trigger warning. This episode, and therefore this review, talks about several topics that might be upsetting. These include abuse, pregnancy trauma and miscarriage. It’s heavy. If you’re not up for that, here’s a link to my review of Tucker and Dale, which is considerably lighter and funnier.
Our episode starts with Anna trying to get the police to take her seriously about the break-in. There’s just one problem. No one was seen coming in or out of the apartment except Dex. No one shows up on any of the security footage. The police are convinced it’s just Anna’s IFV medication making her see things.
But Anna doesn’t have time to think about the break-in. She’s just been nominated for a Gotham award, and she needs to get into full Awards Show mode. Siobhan gives her something she calls B12 and tells her that her life now revolves around awards prep.
But Anna’s whole life can’t revolve around that, because she’s pregnant now. Even though she seems to be losing time. Like, weeks at a time without even realizing it.
Things just get stranger when she’s at the Gotham Awards and accosted by an overzealous fan in the bathroom. After the woman puts her hands on Anna’s stomach, she knocks her over and the woman hits her head on the sink.
Rather than aiding the woman, Anna goes out to accept her award.
Or does she? After throwing up blood on stage, she finds herself back in the bathroom, being helped up by paramedics.
Everyone agrees that Anna needs some rest and space to heal. So she and Dex go to Talia’s house in the country. There, of course, everything gets much worse. Anna starts to bleed after a yoga session and is taken to the hospital. There, she gets an ultrasound by Nurse Ivy. A nurse that no one else knows at the hospital.
Sadly, the bleeding doesn’t stop. And as we end the episode, it appears that Anna has lost her baby.
Emma Roberts is doing a fantastic job playing Anna. Proving as always that American Horror Story actors are nothing if not flexible. I find myself wanting to compare Anna to Madison Montgomery from AHS Coven. They’re both actresses who experience abuse from men that one might, sadly, expect for women in their station and age range. Madison is gang-abused by frat boys, and Anna has her autonomy taken away from her as soon as a baby is in question.
That’s where the similarities stop. Can you ever imagine Madison saying, “You’re right, I’m sorry,” to literally anyone? She’d have snapped a man’s neck first. Anna’s body language, voice modulation, and the overall way she carries herself in the world is so different.
This is also part of what makes her relatable. I imagine many of the female-presenting people reading this can remember a time when we’ve said, you’re right, I’m sorry when they were wrong and we weren’t sorry at all.
I also really loved the amount of blood in this episode. There is so much blood involved in being a cisgender woman. It’s something we take for granted, but shy away from when in polite company. There was no shying away here. We’re made to see all of it. I don’t think the amount of blood in the miscarriage scene was overkill at all. If anything, it wasn’t enough.
Finally, it’s a small point but one that I appreciated. I bet you already know the one I’m talking about. When Anna is overjoyed to get to wear the same dress once worn by Madonna, Siobhan reminds her in a stern voice not to rip it.
If you didn’t get the joke, look up Kim K and an incident with the iconic Marilyn Monroe dress. I do appreciate anyone who can poke fun at themselves.
The reference to ‘don’t rip it’ with the dress was fun. I hate Kim K and her whole family, but that was funny.
What didn’t work
I’m honestly struggling to find anything in this episode that didn’t work. If I had to pick out something I didn’t like, it was probably that we got the barest cameo from Zachary Quinto. I really hope we get to see more of him as the season progresses.
Another thing I don’t like overall is the character Siobhan. I mentioned this last week, and I’ll try not to mention it again because I don’t see it changing. But the character in the show is a bare reflection of the one in the book.
Siobhan in the book was a loving, selfless friend. Which made the ending, well, let’s say impactful to avoid spoilers for both AHS and Delicate Condition. This version, if she continues as she is, is not going to have the same effect.
I’m also quite done hearing the internet swoon over what a great job Kim K is doing. She’s been acting her entire life, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t good at it. And she’s doing no better or worse than many other guest stars have done in the past seasons of American Horror Story. She’s not bad. But she wouldn’t be getting the credit she is if she wasn’t who she is.
Overall, this was a great episode. It was equal parts funny, gory and infuriating. At this point, my only real complaint is that there are only three episodes left until a season break. But now that the writing strike is over, hopefully the break won’t be too long.(4 / 5)
Cadaver (2020), a Film Review
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal and currently available on Netflix.
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal. This unrated film stars Thorbjørn Harr, Gitte Witt, and Thomas Gullestad. As of this review, the film is available on Netflix.
After an apocalyptic event, the survivors endure in a hopeless world. Among these survivors are Leonora (Gitte Witt), Jacob (Thomas Gullestad), and Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman), a family fighting the hopelessness of a lost world. Leonora desires to keep her daughter (Alice) hopeful, and when a theater opens in their decrepit city, she thinks she has found the solution to their despair. However, they will all soon learn how desperate people have become.
What I Like from Cadaver
Cadaver takes on a unique focus for a post-apocalyptic movie. While most in the genre tackle the question of where you find hope, the theatrical lens is not one I’ve seen before. It blends these two unique environments together for a pleasant concoction. As a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I must admit I find my niche in the everyday lives of someone in such a world.
Leonora’s (usually called Leo in the film) dreamer nature in this horrendously hopeless environment creates a sympathetic contrast. This dreamer nature doesn’t excuse some of her choices, but she evokes sympathy. While most post-apocalyptic entries provide this balance of hope and survival, Leo’s creativity and passion for the arts give her hope and a more focused ideal.
The relationship between Leo and her husband also creates a nice contrast, as Jacob plays the rationalist and survivor. In this decision, both characters provide that post-apocalyptic dynamic of survival and hope. These interactions allow both actors opportunities to create friction as they pull the plot from their differing perspectives.
I had the chance to listen to the dubbed version, which sounds good. I’m not much for dubs, especially on Netflix, but they did Cadaver with respect and a focus on quality. At the very least, it’s competent and doesn’t distract from the viewing experience.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As hinted at earlier, there are some dumb decisions in the plot. While many fall within character traits, the actions don’t escape criticism. This flaw becomes incredibly repetitive when characters make the same mistake.
Implied suicide occurs throughout the film with one shown incident, but there are circumstances that change the context slightly. A world this bleak invites this depressive and dangerous state as a normality. However, one should prepare if this is a trigger.
What I Dislike or Considerations for Cadaver
Again, some decisions had me roll my eyes and endure the plot. This reaction isn’t exactly the experience I seek out in my horror. It’s more haunting to make sensible, or even intelligent, decisions and still endure unavoidable or unforeseen consequences.
It’s likely that nothing in Cadaver surprises you, which underutilizes the interesting premise. There are unique elements, certainly, but never a twist I didn’t see coming. It’s in that execution that Cadaver falls flat and fails to engage a viewer.
The film doesn’t exactly haunt the viewer, but the bleak world effectively depicts the hopelessness of a post-apocalypse. Don’t expect much genuine horror, but you can expect an appropriately uncomfortable and unnerving experience. In short, viewers of Cadaver likely want a unique twist in their post-apocalypse, not a traumatic horror.
Cadaver remains a unique viewing experience by adding a slight twist to its post-apocalyptic story. While not a haunting masterpiece, this bleak film will have you feeling the characters’ struggle. While lacking sensible decision-making skills, they are certainly sympathetic survivors struggling in a hopeless world. If this is your niche, it’s certainly worth a view.
(3 / 5)