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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.

Movie poster for Maniac Cop
Does Cordell’s name on the poster count as a spoiler?

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 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Best Line: “Look at the size of those hematomas!” – Frank (Joe Bob was totally right about this one)

Still from the movie Maniac Cop
Bruce Campbell never stood a chance.

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.

Poster for the movie Maniac Cop 2
A tagline so nice they used it twice!

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 out of 5 stars (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)

a still from Maniac Cop 2
“Did anyone order a brick shithouse?”

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
  • Stripperama
  • Attempted Muggery
  • Patrol Beats
  • “thee-ater”
  • “debutt”
  • 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.
The Last Drive In S3E6 screencap
These on-the-job photos are getting ridiculous.

Episode Score

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 out of 5 stars (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?

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Target



Episode two of Amazon Prime’s Fallout was equal parts funny and bloody. This almost always leads to a good time.

The story

We begin this episode with the birth of some puppies that look like they’ve had a rough start to life. Each one is weighed, with the ones who fall short being incinerated.

One pup who is just below the correct weight gets a bit of a thumb on their scale. The scientist weighing them, Wilzig, writes down the proper weight. He later takes the puppy home to raise instead of putting them into what looks like an unforgiving training program.


Eventually, we see Wilzig put some blue glowing thing into his neck. When a soldier comes for him, Dog attacks the soldier, and the two escape.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

We go from there to the wilderness, where Lucy is recovering from the last episode and enjoying a campfire at night. Wilzig and Dog come out of the shadows, saving Lucy from a bug monster. Wilzig tells Lucy she should go home. And if she’s not going to go home, she needs to evolve.

The next day Lucy finds her way to a town called Filly. As a Pennsylvanian, it hurts me to spell it that way. Lucy is entranced by this town, though clearly put off by the fact that no one is very nice here.

She eventually finds her way to a shop run by a delightful woman named Ma June. Ma doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping Lucy. Or, frankly, having Lucy in her shop.

Or in her town.

Eventually, Wilzig is tracked to this same shop, being tracked by The Ghoul. This is our final primary character. Lucy defends Wilzig, being aided at the last moment by Maximus.


Maximus, by the way, has been having a terrible time. After finally becoming a squire he’s disappointed to find that his knight, Knight Titus, is a terrible person.

Fortunately, Maximus doesn’t have to put up with Titus for long. After Titus gets the bright idea to go hunting, he’s attacked by a mutated bear. Maximus freezes, unable to save him. Then, well, he decides not to save him.

It was Titus’s idea to go hunt the bear, after all.

What worked

Walton Goggins in Fallout.

The first thing I want to draw attention to is the shootout scene at Filly. This scene checked every box a fight scene should check. It was fun to watch, with great effects. But it also gave us insight into the characters. Lucy is a decent fighter and has a strong moral compass. The Ghoul is callus and desensitized to death. And Maximus continues to be, well, sort of bad at this whole fighting thing. But with enough moral fortitude that we have a hard time blaming him.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dog. Who’s name, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is just Dog. Which is fine. He doesn’t need to have a name to be a very good boy. He’s sweet, loyal, and fearless.


Also, puppies. Puppies are always great.

Finally, I’d like to shine a spotlight on Lucy’s reaction to the world at large. She is both amazed and terrified by everything. And while she certainly doesn’t want to be rude, she also doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. The best example of this is when she stops to ask for directions with a bright smile and a gun.

Once again, I don’t have anything bad to say about this episode. It was funny, dark, and fun to watch. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The End



Launching with worldwide excitement, Fallout is based on the extremely popular game series of the same name. Fans of the series have waited with anticipation and trepidation to see if the Prime series would live up to the game.

Having now watched the first episode I can say that, so far, it’s successful.

The story

Our story begins with a children’s birthday party. A performer is there with his daughter, giving horse rides and taking pictures with the kids.


As much as the adults try to focus on the party and the kids, it’s impossible to ignore the looming threat of war that’s on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s during this party that war comes, and the bombs drop.

We then cut to after the war and into one of the vaults established to protect humankind and the American Way. For future reference, this is Vault 33. We meet Lucy, our first main character, who’s petitioning to be married to a man from Vault 32 to ensure DNA diversity.

On the wedding night, though, Lucy and the rest of Vault 33 are met with a horrible surprise. The group they let in is not in fact from Vault 32, but is instead a team of raiders from the surface. The raiders kill a lot of the vault dwellers and kidnap Lucy’s father.

We are then introduced to our second main character, Maximus. He is in training to become a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel. And, well, he’s not doing great.


Things get worse when his best friend Dane becomes a squire before him. But when Dane is hurt, Maximus gets their spot.

Aaron Moten in Fallout.

We then go back to Lucy, who has decided to leave the vault and find her dad. Of course, the council of her vault doesn’t want her to go. So she is aided by her brother Norm and cousin Chet in a wild escape.

What worked

The first thing that deserves attention is the exceptional character work. Our three main characters are fleshed out and relatable right away. We feel sympathetic for The Ghoul before he’s even introduced as such. We love Lucy’s nativity and selflessness. And we love Maximus for his honesty and passion for his cause.

While these characters are their own people, they also exhibit the three responses we might expect to see in a post-apocalyptic world. We have the hopeful optimist who doesn’t understand how bad things are. We have the aspiring hero who wants to make the world better by force. And we have the self-serving individual who’s given up on the rest of humanity and is only focused on surviving.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the balance of humor and gore. Because there was certainly enough blood and guts for even the most hardcore horror lover. We had a violent sabotage, a brawl with raiders, and even several nuclear bombs.

But there were a lot of funny moments as well. Usually from Lucy. Her overall goodwill and fearless gumption are absolutely hilarious, especially given the horrors she’s facing. It never ceases to amuse me.

Ella Purnell in Fallout

Both of these aspects are done perfectly. The jokes land and the bloody scenes pull no punches. It was delightful.

All in all, this was an exciting start to a much-anticipated series. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the landing.

For more tv shows based on video games, check out my review of Witcher. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Ave Hestia



Episode seven of American Horror Story Delicate was a classic AHS flashback episode. If you were excited to see what Preecher had to say to Anna at the end of the last episode, I’m sorry to say that you will not get that satisfaction. However, we did learn all sorts of other fascinating things about the strange coven hunting Anna. And, we learned all sorts of things we didn’t know about Dex’s first wife, Adeline.

The story

We begin our story with a woman giving birth alone in a barn. When it becomes clear that she’s not going to be able to deliver vaginally, she pulls out a knife and cuts her stomach open to pull out her children.

For whatever reason, this is when the coven of witches decides to make themselves known.

Ashlie Atkinson in American Horror Story.

We then cut to 2013, when Dex was still married to Adeline. In true Dex fashion, he’s surprised her with a puppy.

While that sounds great in theory, dogs are something a couple should talk about, not gift each other with as a surprise. An adult would know that. A trust fund boy like Dex does not.

Adeline owns a vegan restaurant called Ave Hestia. Love that name. She seems to be living a great life. She has a career she’s passionate about, friends who love her, and a husband she seems kind of fond of.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want a puppy. She already had one.

Of course, things aren’t as good as they appear. We soon find out that Adeline was one of those babies we saw at the start of the episode. The other baby was Sonia, the painter.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones in American Horror Story.

And yes, both of these characters are played by Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Adeline has stepped away from their family, and whatever dark things they do. But the family isn’t happy with her decision. And if she isn’t going to come back willingly, they’re going to make her.


What worked

To start with, I loved the character, Adeline. She is fierce, she is fearless, and relentless. I feel like this would have been a far different story if Adeline had been our main character. It was astounding to see her interact with the same people Anna has, and get a completely different response. It’s clear now, how much everyone around Anna resents her for simply not being Adeline.

I also appreciated that there was just a shocking amount of blood in this episode. From the start when Adeline and Sonia are born, to the climactic end of Adeline, this episode is just drenched in blood.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the changes in this season from the book it’s based on. Because absolutely none of this was in the book. Compared to this, the book is heartwarming.

The book is kind of heartwarming even without the comparison.


But I love the fact that, even with just two episodes left in the season, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know what Anna is carrying. I do not know if she’s going to survive this. I do not know what these people want with her.

But I can’t wait to find out.

What didn’t work

All that being said, it is a bit frustrating to have no forward momentum in this episode. This was all backstory, and it felt like there wasn’t enough backstory to fill a full forty minutes. Because of that, it dragged. There were a lot of scenes that just didn’t need to be as long as they were. It felt like they could have cut that down considerably, and had some time to check in with our main characters at either the start or the end of the episode.

There are only two episodes left in the season, and I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen. But so far the story has been dark, bloody, and provocative. So I hope they can manage to end it on a high note.


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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