I feel like I'm taking a bit of a chance with this review, considering certain conditions nowadays, and the fact that this is about a "maniac cop". However, considering this is the next Campbell movie on my list to review, famous in the Campbell subculture and has two sequels to cover, I'm going in, chin first. This is only meant to be a review on a film from 1988 for fun, and is not meant to stir up any controversy.
This one comes to us from writer Larry Cohen (probably best known to a broader audience as a writer on 'Phone Booth' or 'Cellular') and director William Lustig (best known for either a few underground thrillers, or a wide range of horror/thriller documentary production). The pair give us an effective low budget slasher, much more in sync with something from the '70's. To compare, by this time Freddy was up to his fourth film, Jason was up to his seventh, and Michael Myers had only just "returned". While things were getting turned up in pop culture horror, this came along under the radar. It makes me think of the effectiveness of horror films closer to the first 'Halloween', in which our imagination showed us more gore than what was actually on screen. It's a friendly reminds that often less is more.
In New York City, innocent citizens are being brutally slain by who appears to be a severely disgruntled NYPD officer. With a rising body count, Lt. Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins - who some may know best from 'Halloween III') ends up being told by his superiors to cover it up, and to head the investigation. Meanwhile, panicked New Yorkers are avoiding cops as much as possible, sometimes by killing them.
We soon meet Jack Forrest (Campbell); a man with spousal problems at home, as his wife, Ellen (Victoria Catlin) suspects him of being the killer. She eventually follows him to a hotel, where she catches him cheating on her with his fellow officer, Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon). Distraught, Ellen flees the scene, one thing leads to another, and Jack suddenly becomes suspect #1. Mallory, who was with him that night, then works with Jack to hopefully find the help he needs to clear his name.
For as big a name as this is within the Campbell Community, I'm not sure that I particularly found much in this. It's in a weird situation where its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. I find it cool, and respectable that this was a film that did harken back to the early slashers of the 70's, giving horror fans that "less is more" reminder. But that coming into play at the same time effects were starting to take off, and become a really big part of horror isn't effective. Mainstream horror movies were really brushed up, offering a few cool new practical effects, so this was probably pretty boring for its time. It might only be now that one can look back on this and appreciate it for what it was.
So, while it's definitely not my favorite Campbell movie, I can appreciate that it did what it did on its low budget with some pretty solid underground players. Other than Campbell, the name Tom Atkins was one that really stuck out for me. He's from the non-Myers 'Halloween' movie, which I find gets similar appreciation to this one, in that it's far better to look at it nowadays (though maybe not right now) as a hidden classic rather than something that just "sucks". It may not have done much for me, but I can say that at the very least, it was an interesting piece of homework on Bruce Campbell's early stuff.