I have an unhealthy level of affection for this entire franchise. In one of the few entries of my AYIF series, I revealed my love for the first film in suspiciously overzealous fashion. After seeing the first, I immediately sought out and watched parts 2 and 3 and found them both to be very enjoyable followups. But it wasn’t until this screening of William Lustig’s own print of Maniac Cop 2 that I realized just how special this sequel is.
Maniac Cop 2 picks up right where the first film leaves off, with undead police officer Matt Cordell and our hero, played by Bruce Campbell, locked in a death struggle on a speeding police paddy wagon. Once Cordell is assumed to have been secured a watery grave, officers Forrest (Campbell) and Mallory (Laurene Landon) have a hard time getting the brass to buy their explanation of what happened; the police chief being especially reticent to accept that Matt Cordell returned from the grave to perpetrate a series of homicides. But while our intrepid heroes try to pick up the pieces of their shattered worlds, Cordell again rises to dish out his own flavor of law and order. Will their combined knowledge of Cordell’s methods, along with the aide of loose cannon Detective Sean McKinney (Robert Davi) be enough to once again stop Cordell?
Horror sequels are a dime-a-dozen, there is no denying this. So the followup to an already more-than-slightly esoteric horror film rests precariously above the abyss of total, irrevocable obscurity. But William Lustig relies on well-rounded characters and absolutely mind-blasting stunt work to elevate his sophomore franchise entry. First is the addition of Robert Davi as Det. McKinney. With his fedora and suspenders, along with his propensity to shoot bad guys with a ginormous .45, he seems plucked from the dingy, yellowing pages of a Mickey Spillane novel. He is perpetually cool and perfectly hard-boiled. As anachronistic as he seems, his no-nonsense, distraction-free methods actually ground the otherwise completely absurd concept. I also like the wildly insecure, loud-mouthed serial killer who serves as a hilarious juxtaposition to Cordell’s statuesque malevolence.
In terms of stunts, the first Maniac Cop is no slouch. But its younger sibling straps a rocket to the back of the stunt work in the first film, sticks a beaker of nitroglycerin in its mitts, and fires it over a tank full of chainsaw-wielding sharks. The first time we’re introduced to Robert Davi’s character, he shoots a perp the instant that perp has shaken off falling out of a second story window onto the roof a van and then onto the ground. Not enough? How about a police station shooting spree that rivals that of the first Terminator? No? How about one of the longest fire suit sequences ever caught on film culminating in two blazing baddies falling from a third story window onto a bus? This series is truly one of the best marriages of the slasher film and the action film. Incredible.
Beyond all that, I really just plain dig the plot of Maniac Cop 2. The stubbornly still breathing Matt Cordell, whose torso has inexplicably been inflated to the size of a Macy’s parade balloon, teams up with a bearded serial killer who then uses him to try and raise an army of arch criminals to take over the city? Flawless victory! Bundle all this together and pepper it with a snappy pace, a great supporting performance from Clarance Williams III, and a very brief cameo from Danny Trejo and you’ve got yourself one of the most entertaining films to ever play Terror Tuesday.
There was a considerable buzz in the air on this night. Director William Lustig, despite having a debilitating cold, was live in person and presided over a fantastic Q&A. If the crowd was enthusiastic to hear him speak before the film started, they were chomping at the bit to hear his insights on the film once the credits rolled. It was clear Bill was touched by the reception. He told us of the many people involved in this little film that went on to record major successes; about the stunt coordinator who worked on The Expendables, the sound editor who designed the sound for The Matrix, and the composer who went on to score Star Trek: The Next Generation. There is something beautifully apropos about that. Lustig may have been making a low-budget horror sequel, but he did so by employing some very talented people. He saw the potential in artists regardless of the fare in which they plied their trade. That sort of appreciation is at the soul of what makes Terror Tuesday so fantastic.